Parents welcome school board's approval of anti-racism policy, but motion's delay criticized
Approval comes after outrage over Lord Byng Secondary's handling of student's racist rant
The Vancouver School Board (VSB) approved a plan Monday night to deal with racism and discrimination, following months of criticism over how school officials dealt with a student's racist rant on social media.
The new policy was passed during the board's last meeting of 2019, more than a year after the teenage Lord Byng Secondary student posted the rant, which led to some parents withdrawing their children from the school.
Under the policy, the VSB will hire a field expert to establish a "structured response" to student conduct including acts of hate.
The policy will also include ways to deal with incidents through restorative justice, accountability and restitution.
Should a racist incident occur, administrators and staff are instructed to communicate clearly with the perpetrator, their caregivers, affected students and the school community.
A new strategic plan will also be created and list one-year, three-year, and five-year actions that the district will take to address racism and discrimination in Vancouver schools.
Parents push for change
Parents have been urging officials to take action ever since the student's rant was posted on social media in November 2018.
In the video, the teenager, then aged 15, talks in a low voice about how he hates black people, using the N-word, and says he hopes they all die.
"I just want to line them all up and just chuck and explosive in there and go ka-boom," the student says.
Almost a year after the video was posted, the parents of two black girls who left the school attended a special meeting with school board officials and questioned why their daughters should be the ones who felt the need to switch schools.
Rita Baboth, who removed her daughter from Lord Byng, was at the board meeting Monday night and welcomed the new strategy.
"I just want to see a policy that people will act on instead of us pushing it. They will know next time what exactly they have to do instead of giving us the runaround," she said.
Suzanne Daley, whose 14-year-old attends another school, said the new policy is a positive step but she wants stronger action to combat racism and hate.
"I would like to see consequences and accountability for what happened," said Daley, referring to what she called the "gross mishandling" of the situation at Lord Byng.
'They really can't avoid it anymore'
The anti-racism group B.C. Community Alliance has called out the VSB on the length of time that it has taken for trustees to deal with the motion to introduce a new policy.
Founder member Marie Tate said students of colour had been suffering under previous watered-down procedures to deal with discrimination.
She credited parents and students for drawing the school board's attention to the issue of racism in schools.
"They really can't avoid it anymore, so I think, moving forward, they really have to address it."
VSB chair Janet Fraser said the delay in establishing policy was due to necessary consultation with staff, parents and students.
"We realized that was a gap and we moved quickly to address that, but having to work through our engagement with our committees, it took a while for that to actually come to the board for approval," Fraser said.
The B.C. Community Alliance announced in November that it was pushing forward with a class-action complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over how the incident involving the video rant was handled by the VSB.
- A previous version of this story stated that the student who posted the video was 16. In fact, he was 15 at the time.Dec 17, 2019 10:51 AM PT