Parents urged to tell their story and support the success of Black students

At an Urban Rez townhall on “Recognizing Anti-Black Racism in our Schools’’

By Lincoln DePradine

Keaire Daniel

Parents are being urged to demand changes from the school system, where Black children face micro- and macro-aggression and various forms of racism.

“It is a crisis,’’ says Keaire Daniel, a co-founder and current executive director of Parents of Black Children.

According to Daniel, parents ought to be “calling out about what is happening to our children in the education system’’.

She was a participant in a townhall on “Recognizing Anti-Black Racism in our Schools’’.

It was organized by the group “Urban Rez’’, which hosted the meeting virtually and also in-person at West Hill Collegiate Institute in Scarborough.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint institutional racism, yet the impact on Afro-Canadian students is very real,’’ organizers said.  “Black students are more than twice as likely to be suspended and to drop out of secondary school; this townhall series is an opportunity to tell your story and support the success of Black students.’’

Daniel was joined by other speakers such as Toronto District School Board’s Karen Murray, System Superintendent for Equity, Anti-racism and Anti-oppression, with her responsibilities covering the Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement; and Dr. Joseph Smith, a TDSB vice principal.

The presenters discussed challenges encountered in dealing with school officials, with Smith conceding that navigating the system “is a large undertaking’’.

Black students “are brilliant,’’ said Murray, adding that there’s a need to “make sure our students are affirmed’’.

Avenues exist – including filing human rights complaints – to hold educators and school boards accountable, said Daniel.

 “Anybody can go onto the Ontario College of Teachers’ website and file a complaint,’’ she said. “We have the Ontario Human Rights Commission; it’s there for us. There are issues but it’s there for us and you can file a human rights claim against an institution and against the system.’’

Both parents and students must understand their rights and not rule out taking legal action in the pursuit of justice, said Daniel.

“If you’re in situations where you’re uncomfortable; you’re unsure about something; those macro-aggressions that we hear about; you have a phone, record it,’’ she said.

“You record; keep your evidence. That’s what’s going to arm us. We have to sue our way out of this issue and sue our way for change.’’

The education struggle requires knowing “how the system works and how to make the system work for you’’, said Daniel.

“We have to fight for our children,’’ she said. ‘We need to push for change; we cannot be shy about that. And students, as well, need to know what their rights are. If you’re in a classroom and an educator is using the ‘N’ word and purposely saying it, that is anti-Black racism.’’