Prince George School Board leadership resigns following report into systemic racism
Indigenous board chair quits, calling school system 'racist, a 'culture of fear' and 'broken'
The chair and vice chair of Prince George, B.C.'s School District 57's board of education have suddenly resigned in the wake of a Special Advisors Report into Indigenous relations.
"I can no longer be part of the Board of Education or a system that this report has shown to be racist, a culture of fear, and broken," former board chair Trent Derrick wrote in a resignation letter provided to local media.
"As a First Nations Leader, I can say that my voice was not meant to be at the table."
In February, B.C. Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside ordered an investigation into governance practices in SD57 and appointed two special advisors to the board.
The report, released in late August, found systemic anti-Indigenous racism and a "substantial culture of fear" within the district. The report stated SD57 is behind other school districts in best practices, and that Indigenous students are disproportionately held back, placed in alternative programs or removed from the typical graduation path.
Derrick, a member of the Gitxsan First Nation, noted: "as grad rates for Indigenous students have been low and any attempt to improve them over the last 15 years have not been successful, there needs to be accountability for the lack of improvement."
SD57 School Board Vice-Chair Shuirose Valimohamed also submitted a resignation letter Monday morning.
"I have never felt safe in any meeting or at the public Board table," Valimohamed wrote.
"I couldn't ask difficult or challenging questions to other trustees or SD57 Senior Staff. My opinions and views did not matter. The system is not built for minority voices in elected positions or leadership. It is built on holding the white supremacy ideology. The Special Advisors Report shows that."
School District 57 issued a news release Monday afternoon, promising a further response at aTuesday news conference.
"We are surprised and saddened to hear of these resignations," said School District 57 communications advisor Serena Shane.
"School District No. 57 is committed to providing a safe, respected, trusted and inclusive environment ... Our hope is that the community — including First Nations, community groups, media — will work with us to address these issues and concerns in a collaborative, genuine and authentic way."
The B.C. Ministry of Education is currently developing a draft plan to implement the recommendations outlined in the Special Advisors Report.
A final report on the board's progress in meeting the advisors' objectives and provincial government's expectations is expected in March 2022.