A growing concern within the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) has brought to the forefront of the governance structure of the public school board with hopes a stronger stance and more robust policies and procedures can eradicate racism in local education facilities.
Prince Edward-South Trustee Alison Kelly made an impassioned request at Monday afternoon’s HPEDSB Committee of the Whole meeting to have a policy put in place that makes a statement in which HPEDSB, as a school board, will not stand or tolerate racism of any kind.
This issue arose when Talia Epstein, a Prince Edward Collegiate student, wrote about the anti-Semitic encounters she has dealt with at both her school and within the community. Epstein’s op-ed piece can be found here.
“Inspired by Talia Epstein’s open letter and in addition to hearing and seeing racist and xenophobic actions in my community, I felt an obligation to bring my concerns to the Board of Trustees,” Kelly told The Gazette.
Epstein’s raw and unflinching submission emphasized the need for more awareness among everyone in our school and school communities.
The Trustees have asked their Director of Education Sean Monteith and his senior staff to make changes to current procedures to show their students, staff and communities who they are as a board.
“We must make bold statements that not only support the work of senior staff, but also shows our students, staff, and communities who we are as a Board,” added Kelly.
After an open discussion between trustees, student trustees and senior staff, Kelly requested that the HPEDSB take action and move forward with introducing a policy explicitly addressing racism.
The motion to create a policy on racism and reinforce Procedure 135: Equity and Inclusivity Education and Procedure 145: District Code of Conduct and School Codes of Conduct was passed.
“Now that the Board of Trustees has passed a recommendation for a policy on racism to be created, the wheels are in motion for development to begin,” stated Kerry Donnell, communications manager for HPEDSB. “The Director of Education will begin working on it with the trustees following the normal process. It will take a few months as they draft wording, have it reviewed and revised through committee, then take to the Board for final approval.”
Superintendent of Student Services Ken Dostaler spoke on how the local public school board is in the people business and serve students.
If parents or guardians hear about any issues with bullying, conflict or other concerning situations to report it to their child’s teacher or principal as soon as they become aware.
Dostaler also spoke on what the process that started last spring by way of developing an enhanced school board procedure that addressed equitable and inclusive education and that policy will be released in the coming weeks.
“The new version is more comprehensive than the previous version and went from three pages to over 20,” said Dostaler. “This work is a direct link to what Trustee Alison Kelly is asking for. We are continuing our work on creating welcoming, inclusive and equitable school communities, to listen to and include the student voice and to create a culture of care in our schools.”
The policy approval will come at a forthcoming meeting.