It’s 8 p.m. on a Tuesday, and Charline Grant is on the phone with a parent from Ottawa looking for support. It’s not an unusual call. Grant receives calls from parents all over Ontario, even as far away as the U.S. and the U.K., “because borders don’t stop racism,” Grant told CityNews.
Grant and Kearie Daniel, both mothers who live in York Region, have been tracking incidents of anti-Black racism in schools across the province. Since September 7th, their advocacy group — Parents of Black Children — has received e-mails from 48 families, some with the subject line ‘Help.’
“Times that by five to seven instances they’ve experienced individually. Because no family has ever reached out to us if they have one issue of anti-Black racism, it’s usually multiple,” Grant said.
As calls for action to end anti-Black racism in schools grow louder, now Ontario teachers are receiving professional advice on the subject.
The guidance was issued by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) to educators in the form of a professional advisory that explains examples of anti-Black racism and how to create more inclusive classrooms.
Lead writer Amorell Saunders N’Daw described it as one tool in a teacher’s toolbox to support ongoing and frequent professional development in areas of anti-Black racism.
“It’s really important to continue to engage in dialogue, to raise awareness, to provide resources,” she said, “so that people can be critically aware of how they might be inadvertently contributing to an environment that promotes racism.”
Saunders N’Daw told CityNews when writing the advisory, she drew on her experiences as a mother of three boys, keeping in mind some of the teachers they had growing up, who she now hopes will read the advisory and reflect.
“But in the end, I would like the more than 230,000 certified teachers in the province to be able to get some kind of information and value from the content,” said Saunders N’Daw.
“It’s a great tool, but doesn’t go far enough.”
“My initial reaction was it’s a fulsome document,” said Kearie Daniel. “I love that [the OCT] took the time to explain examples of anti-Black racism… It’s great that they have noted they are an influential organization and can influence the ways in which teachers practice, but it does not go far enough.”
That’s because there is no mention of accountability, Daniel noted. While the Ontario College of Teachers Act was recently amended to include discrimination as an act of professional misconduct, it’s still up to school boards to report teachers to the OCT.
“When we ask boards to give us the data in who they’re reporting to the OCT, they don’t have those numbers because they’re not doing it,” Grant said, putting the onus on community groups like hers and individual parents to take action.
Grant would like to see the issue addressed with the same seriousness as when students suffer a physical or a sexual assault.
“If educators know that they will be reported, then behaviours would switch.”