Blacks being suspended from school at higher rate

Donna Quan

By Gerald V. Paul

The newly minted Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Education Director Donna Quan told The Camera the root causes of higher rate suspensions of Blacks in comparison to whites must be addressed at an earlier age.

“We need to pay greater attention to why a disproportionate percentage of black students are being suspended. I believe our schools follow the standards of discipline evenly, but we need to address the root causes of these issues at an earlier age,” Quan said.

“For years we heard Black students were suspended more often, but now that we have evidence, what will be meaningful is that the board and teachers and parents and the community do together to address the problem,” York University Professor Carl James and the 2013 BBPA/Harry Jerome Recipient said.

A demographic snapshot for the Board, shows a struggling black community when coming to education. Black students are less likely to live in a two-parent family than the board average, and their parents are less likely to have attended university. Many live in poverty.

And while most said they feel safe at school and believe teachers set high expectations and accept them, only 54 per cent said they “feel supported by teachers,” according to the 2006 census survey, in which Black students made up only about 12 per cent of high school students in the TDSB, yet accounted for more than 31 per cent of all suspensions.

As for school rules, just 42 per cent of students with a Caribbean background said they were applied fairly.

To alleviate the situation, the TDSB in recent years responded  by opening special “Africentric” schools with a more culturally sensitive curriculm, and has started created mentoring groups specifically for Black boys.