The response of Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s education minister, to a report on anti-Black racism at learning institutions of the Peel District School Board (PDSB) has been described as “disturbing’’ and “mind-boggling’’.
At the request of PDSB, Lecce ordered a review last November into the school board, which is responsible for more than 155,000 students in 257 schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon.
The three-member team of reviewers, who conducted more than 30 interviews with people and groups in various locations, was asked to examine issues such as human rights, equity and racism – specifically anti-Black racism – as well as human resources practices, leadership and trustee conduct.
After receiving the final report of the review, Lecce promised that he’ll be “looking at next steps to drive positive change for Black and racialized students, parents and staff.”
He subsequently issued 27 “ministerial directions’’ with timelines intended to ensure parents and community members are able to track progress at the PDSB and hold school board officials to account.
“After decades of inaction, I want to see swift implementation of my directions to drive the necessary and positive change that students deserve. Students and the community have demanded change and I want to assure them that we will monitor board implementation of the directions and hold them to account to deliver transformational change that will put every student on a path to success,’’ Lecce said.
“Students, educators and staff deserve to learn and work in a safe and inclusive environment, free of discrimination. I want Black and racialized families in Peel Region and across Ontario to know that we are listening to their voice and that this government will act to ensure change is finally achieved.’’
The New Democratic Party (NDP), the official opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, has criticized Lecce and has called for “immediate action’’ to address anti-Black racism and discrimination across the province.
“What is most disturbing, is Minister Lecce’s failure to prioritize addressing anti-Black racism or create meaningful accountability mechanisms in his directives,’’ said MPP Dr Laura Mae Lindo, a trained educator and the NDP’s critic for anti-racism, citizenship and immigration. She’s also chair of her party’s Black Caucus.
“The minister has failed to provide reporting mechanisms for the same parents, students and staff whose experiences should have prompted this review many years ago,’’ Lindo added.
“Parents and students alike have reported issues with School Resource Officers in Peel.Yet the minister’s directives fail to address this. Instead, Minister Lecce is taking the mind-boggling step of leaving the same board that has failed to address community concerns to oversee desperately needed change.’’
Black students and their families deserve so much better, said Lindo. “That’s why New Democrats have tabled a motion calling for a province-wide strategy to address anti-Black racism and equity in schools,’’ she explained.
Lindo noted that the Conservative government, which was elected in 2018, has slashed funding for anti-racism initiatives to just $1,000 across the entire province.
Now, the NDP is demanding that the government, “in consultation with Black community members’’, establishes a “fully funded, publicly accountable provincial strategy to address anti-Black racism and racial equity in schools’’, said Lindo.
“The findings of the PDSB review into anti-Black racism and discrimination in the Peel District School Board are horrifying, but sadly not surprising,’’ she said. “
“The PDSB review – like the York Region District School Board review before it – reiterates patterns of Black students being disproportionately streamed out of academic programs, receiving less support, and being disciplined, suspended and pushed out of schools, at rates much higher than their peers.’’