Following the request of a PECI student in October, the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) members approved recommendations to encourage and honour Black History Month during February as well as to encourage and honour Pride Month during June; and encourage and honour National Indigenous History Month in June.
This motion that was brought forward at the committee of The Whole on Nov. 9, 2020, recommended three recommendations be brought forward at a Public Board Meeting for final approval.
“This recommendation for Black History Month was moved by Trustee Alison Kelly and seconded by Trustee Spencer Hutchison,” said Lucille Kyle, Chair of the HPEDSB. “That the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board to encourage and to honor Black History Month during the month of February at the education centre and all elementary and secondary schools across the district.”
These recommendations connect with actions and recommendations by the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA), and specifically the OPSBA Board of Direction unanimously passed on September 26, 2020 “That the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association advocate to the Ministry of Education and the Education Equity Secretariat, that supporting the work of district school boards with regard to anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism be a priority. This support must include funding, and should involve the sharing of research, including the collection of identity-based data on educational outcomes, as well as effective practices, strategies, and approaches.
“I reached out to Rihanna Harris because I wanted to get some feed back from her with regards to the language we’re using,” Trustee Kelly expressed. “I was crowd-sourcing a few people because I knew the word celebrate wasn’t quite right, you know there were options. So Harris polled her class and I think 80 per cent came back to say they would like to see the word ‘to honor’, they felt commemorate they didn’t know what that meant, they thought that was too big of a word and they couldn’t relate to it, so that was another option that was recommended to me was to include ‘to honor’, at least within the Black History Month.”
Harris, a Grade 6 student at Prince Edward Colligate Institute, spoke before the HPEDSB at a Public Board Meeting back in Oct. 2020 about how important the inclusivity of black history is in the school curriculum.
“I would love to see black history included in our local school curriculum,” expressed Harris to the board. “I am doing this for every other child who’s a minority and for our generations to come. It’s important I stand up for what is right and to be a part of making a change and a difference for the better. If I could change the perspective of one persons mind this could start a chain reaction of positive reactions. I’m doing this because I think there should be a balance between the positive and the negative. If we can learn about slavery, segregation and apartheid, which are negative historical events, we should and need to be talking about the positives things like the civil rights movement, who abolish slavery? the history that took place, these are things we should be learning as well. We don’t live in a white world, we live in a multi racial world so we should be learning both sides of the coin.”
- HPEDSB published an update to Procedure 135: Equity and Inclusion Education to include language supporting anti-homophobia, anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous in all aspects of the organization, including school procedures, practices, programs, curriculum and services. (2020)
- Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan (2017) states, “Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan is the province’s roadmap to identifying and eliminating discriminatory practices, systemic barriers and bias from schools and classrooms to support the potential for all students to succeed.”
- Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (2009) calls for “each school to create and support a positive school climate that fosters and promotes equity, inclusive education, and diversity.”
- Ontario Human Right’s Code states, “Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.” R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 1; 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (1); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (1); 2012, c. 7, s. 1.
- Ontario Human Right’s Code states, “Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 5 (1); 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (5); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (5); 2012, c. 7, s. 4 (1).”
“I’m completely in line with ‘honor’ if that is the wishes of Harris, the student we had to our board meeting,” said Trustee Lisa Anne Chatten. “I think it’s important for a person of color to actually have their voice come forward and be heard, if she did a poll of her classroom, I had no idea I think its incredible she actually went as far as asking her peers, she had her own feelings about it and I would like to respect that. I would like for us to represent that.”
For more information please visit http://www.hpedsb.on.ca