All Posts Tagged With: "Toronto District School Board"
I did fine without teachers who ‘looked’ exactly like me
An internal memo circulated earlier this week within the Toronto District School Board explicitly states: “The first round of TDSB interviews will be granted to teachers candidates that meet one or more of the following criteria in addition to being an outstanding teacher: Male, racial minority, French, Music, Aboriginal.”
Although the school board is taking the stance that the hiring criteria outlined above is not meant to actively exclude other groups, I can’t help but think that if I sent in a resume after graduating from York University’s education program this spring, as a female, I’d be rejected.
I’ve been constantly reminded that, as an Asian female, there are special scholarships available to me—that I enjoy a special kind of privilege offered to women of colour. A representative at a job fair stand once told me that if I ever considered applying for a position with the Toronto Police Service, I’d be a shoo-in. The TPS was running low on Asian female police officers—their words, not mine. Some would call this affirmative action. Others would cry reverse racism.
I say: why should any of this matter? Shouldn’t merit, skill and experience be what really counts?
A gay-only school, a pet pig & Ultimate Fighting at Ryerson
1. The Toronto District School Board is considering a high school for GLBTQ teachers and students, a proposal brought forward by a gay University of Toronto student. It seems unlikely, however. Michael Erickson, a teacher and expert in homophobia in Toronto schools, says that he would rather ensure that every TDSB school has queer-focused resources.
2. A University of Toronto student is having trouble finding an apartment because she has a (very cute) pet pig. She’s toured 15 apartments and didn’t like the only one that was willing to accept the pig. Welcome to the real world.
3. The Red River College Students’ Association has suspended its president, Garrett Meisner, after he was charged with assaulting a police officer at a recent Occupy demonstration. It looks bad on RRC, but at least he didn’t hold up a bank.
TDSB is breaking its own gender discrimination policy
The Toronto District School Board has gotten a lot of flak this week for its decision to allow weekly Islamic prayer sessions in one of its school’s cafeterias. While supporters and critics have been relentlessly debating the existential question of prayer in public schools, one group caught in the middle has garnered only a fraction of the attention. I’m referring to the female students who participate in Friday prayers at Valley Park Middle School, relegated to the back on the cafeteria and not permitted to participate when menstruating. Indeed, the TDSB itself has mostly skirted (no pun intended) the issue of gender segregation during prayers at Valley Park, absolving itself of responsibility by stating, ”We do not have the authority to tell faith groups how to pray.”
Indeed, the Board is not of such authority in most situations, but here the prayers are happening during school hours, on public school property. Based on sheer geography alone, the TDSB has an obligation to see that the values and provisions outlined in its own Human Rights Policy are upheld within its school walls. The policy states that the Board has, “a duty to maintain an environment respectful of human rights and free of discrimination,” and may not “allow or condone behaviour contrary to this policy.”
How is it that the TDSB can call for instruction on sexism and gender inequality in its Social Studies classes, yet look the other way when girls are facing active discrimination within its walls?
The TDSB’s position is clear. It allows for the differential treatment of girls within its walls by insisting that the services are a community-run initiative, solicited by Valley Park parents and run by a neighbourhood imam. Indeed, according to a statement released by Chris Spence, TDSB director of education, :The division of the sexes which occurs during the service is a part of the Islamic faith.”
But faith or not, and supposed autonomy or not, the TDSB has an obligation to its students to provide a safe space free from discrimination. And it is all clear in writing; all persons operating on TDSB premises much adhere to Human Rights Policy. It states, “This policy applies to all Toronto District School Board students, employees, trustees, and other users such as members of consultative committees, clients of the Board, parents, volunteers, permit holders, contractors, and employees of organizations not related to the Board but who nevertheless work on or are invited onto Board premises.” (Emphasis mine.)
But the problem is more significant than just an inherent contradiction in rules. Indeed, the more important issue is that when a public school—a supposed beacon of equality—suddenly tolerates discrimination within its four walls, it compromises its status as a safe space for all students. Religious accommodation in public schools should exist as a means for equity, not a medium of exclusion. And it should only be enforced insofar as the individual rights and freedoms of all students may still be upheld. The TDSB must practice what it (literally) preaches if it hopes to give any authority to its lessons on gender equality and discrimination. It cannot stand idly as its female students are sent to the back of the room, especially when that room is just down the hall.
Accusations of segregation continue to dog school board decision
After the decision to create an Africentric school in Toronto, school board trustees received numerous negative e-mails, according to documents obtained under access to information laws.
The e-mails, sent during January and February, ranged from reflective to rage filled accusations of racism.
A woman who grew up in racially segregated Alabama, and nearly got expelled from college for drinking out of “coloured only” water fountains said she was crestfallen when she learned of the school board’s decision to go ahead with what she believes to be a racially exclusive school.
“I am grieved to see Toronto try to turn back the clock to those ignominious times of separation,” wrote Ellen Nichols, who is white and now lives in Toronto.
Nichols was one of 60 people who emailed the school board in January and February regarding the decision to create an Africentric school. Only five of the emails were supportive of the decision.
The Toronto District School Board voted in favour of the Africentric initiative in January. Plans call for a school that will begin with elementary education and run right through high school. Classes will be underway beginning September 2009. The board will be meeting next month to hear recommendations for the location of the school as well as to begin the process of hiring teachers and support staff.
Proponents of the program claim it will help combat the 40 per cent dropout rate among Toronto’s black teens by introducing curriculum, and staff that better represent this demographic. The idea for the school was first suggested in 1995 and an impassioned debate has raged around the issue ever since. E-mails were sent by individuals of all ethnic backgrounds, and included an eclectic mix of professionals, teachers, students and some unexpected characters.
“I certainly have lots of experience on being black in a very homogeneously white school system (Ottawa in the 1970s and early 80s),” wrote Sandra Odendahl, senior director of environmental risk management at CIBC. “I’d prefer to see my tax dollars devoted to community support, rather than a regressive, racist, segregated educational experiment that needs to have a stake driven through it — quickly.”
Dick Field served in the Second World War with the Royal Canadian Artillery in Europe. He said the idea of a “Eurocentric” curriculum working against black youth is absurd. “It is this very ‘Eurocentric’ history and culture, so maligned by these racial advocates that has allowed all our freedoms to flourish,” Field said.
Another author asked, “What’s next, girl focused schools where girls can learn proper girl things like home-ec and nursing?”
E-mails came from all over Canada and included one from Chicago, Ill.
There are more than 100 black-focused or Africentric schools in the United States. Studies show black students, especially young males, benefit immensely from such programs.
Gila Gladstone-Martow, an optometrist and advocate for the school, said other segments of Ontario society had their own schools. “As you are aware, Ontario fully funds: French, French immersion, Roman Catholic, arts-based, sports-based, native schools as well as a gay/lesbian high school,” she wrote.
But she was among a minority of correspondents.
Alvin Stuffels expressed outrage in an initial missive and then tempered his criticism a month later.
“This decision is racist. If a white person suggests an all white school, that person would be called a racist and a Nazi,” he wrote on Jan. 17. “Our society is becoming more and more prejudice against white males, and nobody is questioning it.”
He apologized for his rhetoric in a subsequent e-mail.
“I’m sorry if I vented some of my frustration on you in an earlier e-mail, but I was angry and not thinking straight.” Stuffels added although he is still against the Africentric school, he thinks more can be done within Toronto schools to embrace black youth. David Tomczak, senior manager of the Toronto District School Board, said the trustees still receive many e-mails on the subject.
With a report from CP