School district addressing anti-racism over next three years

·2 min read

Anti-racism work in the Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is at the “beginning of a journey that will take some time,” staff say.

At a February education committee meeting, learning services staff presented on some of the work happening at the classroom and district levels to address anti-racism and cultural safety, which Kerri Steel, elementary director of inclusive education, said will be undergone over the next three years.

Shelley Gvojich, one of the learning coordinators in the district who is leading intersectional learning opportunities such as language arts diverse book clubs and Hul̓q̓umín̓um̓ language learning, said the “racialized experience” of some staff and students in the district needs to be acknowledged.

“We really need to honour and value that there may be people who are not having good experiences in our schools and that we need to seek opportunities to do and be better both as individuals and as a system,” she said.

All principals and vice-principals in the district are participating in a four-part learning series on self-reflection, building vocabulary, selecting resources and responding to racism. An educator-geared social justice webpage has classroom resources in areas such as how to be an ally and posters related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

The presentation also said the Safe Schools Advisory Committee is looking at administrative procedure 350, honouring diversity and challenging racism. Administrative procedures direct staff work and are based on board of education policies.

The Sounder reached out to the district with a request for further details on the steps to be taken over the next three years and to understand who was leading the district-level work, but it was not provided.

Meanwhile, board of education sub-committees are amending the 2016 inclusion policy to include an anti-racism component. The one-page policy outlines expectations for all students, staff and members of school communities and currently says NLPS community members “have the right to expect that policies, procedures, programs and communications are inclusive and respectful” taking into consideration diversities such as “race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion, culture and socio-economic status.”

Board Chair Charlene McKay said in an email the policy and safe schools committees, both composed of trustees only, are working on an open timeline to amend the language in the policy “to ensure that we are clearly articulating our commitment to anti-racism practices district-wide.”

Asked what groups or individuals the committee would seek input from during the drafting process, McKay said they had not been identified yet and “input will come from a variety of people and places.” Following the review, she said the policy would go to a public consultation process.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder