There will be changes to how the Chilliwack School District addresses both systemic racism and discrimination, says the interim superintendent.
Rohan Arul-Pragasam issued a checkpoint list along with a video on June 15, on the district’s website. Both are in response to several personal accounts of racism experienced in Chilliwack schools over the past 11 years.
Arul-Pragasam says the fault does not sit with just one or a few staff or teachers, but the school district as a whole.
“We collectively have to own all the wrongs as an institution and make them right,” he said.
He and other staff have created a list of ways the district intends to do better. That starts with ‘staff development and capacity building,’ including cultural sensitivity and awareness training for all.
The list also includes a ‘system scan,’ in which they will work with the Ministry of Education to complete the Equity in Action Project focusing on equity and parity for Indigenous learners.
It will also include ‘Curriculum in the Classroom.’ They say they will ensure K-12 learning outcomes that focus on racism and discrimination will be taught consistently in all schools and that “the curriculum is inclusive and multi-centric.”
As for policy and regulation, they are committing to developing “comprehensive policy and regulation on inclusion and anti-racism,” which will include how teachers, students, and parents can report and follow up on racist incidents at schools.
Finally, all of the above strategies will be embedded in the Board of Education’s Strategic Plan for the 2020-2021 school year and beyond.
In the video, Arul-Pragasam noted that he is a past principal of Rosedale middle school, where an annual “Slave Day” was used as a fundraiser. In that exercise, which was voluntary and involved Leadership students, students could buy another student for the day and use them for tasks or demean them.
Arul-Pragasam has said previously that it was wrong then and now, and that the district promises to do better. Other stories that have popped up on social media include a student being allowed to use black face during a mock trial, which ended up in a school’s yearbook, and a woman who says her complaints of racism were never dealt with in a meaningful way.
All of the complaints, and the reaction from the district, come amid the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in the United States.
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