South Shore school board updates policy in response to racially charged incidents
'We're definitely having more conversation about race,' says race relations co-ordinator
A school board on Nova Scotia's South Shore that dealt with racially charged incidents involving a noose and a Confederate flag says it has made changes to better respond to similar incidents in the future.
The South Shore Regional School Board has amended its race relations, cross-cultural understanding and human rights policy to provide more direction to teachers, students and staff on how to report and follow up on incidents.
The policy also lists examples of ways in which teachers can educate students about cultural understanding.
The changes were agreed to at a meeting in late September — more than a year after a noose was hung on an African-Nova Scotian teacher's door and a Confederate flag displayed on a student's vehicle in the school parking lot.
School board chair Elliott Payzant said those were "serious incidents."
"From everything that I heard — and I think I was pretty well kept up to date on what was going on — I think the situation was handled quite well," he said.
Lamar Eason, the board's race relations, cross-cultural understanding and human rights co-ordinator, said the students involved were disciplined, although he wouldn't go into detail or confirm whether the teacher was still at the school.
He said he met with staff and administrators at the school, as well as individual students and classes.
CBC has chosen not to identify the teacher or her school out of a concern for her privacy.
More conversation about race
More conversations about race are now taking place in all the board's schools, Eason said.
"I definitely think we're getting better at what we're doing, mainly because I think we're trying to address the fear of talking about those things," he said.
The amended policy "puts in writing" that teachers can report an incident on their own and don't need to wait for a school administrator, said Eason.
The policy also outlines steps that can be taken if someone is being discriminated against based on their race. The examples include suspension of the perpetrator or involving police "as warranted, depending on age of student."
There are also educational examples, including providing learning opportunities about diverse views, beliefs, races and cultures and having members of the community come in and talk to students.
"It gives educators a couple of things to say, 'Here's how I can be proactive,' as opposed to looking at the policy and saying, 'OK this is another piece of paper,'" said Eason.
Doesn't go far enough
The updated policy states the school board will receive reports at least twice a year on any racial incidents, and that the policy will need to be reviewed again in one year.
But Vernon Simms, the board's African-Nova Scotian representative, said this doesn't go far enough.
He was the board member who first asked for a review of the policy, and was the only one to vote against the amendments on Sept. 27.
Simms declined an interview with CBC.
"My concern is the fact that we have kids and we have people of authority that hear and see incidents that are not getting reported," he said at the meeting.
"What I'm looking for is some level of confidence that there is no doubt that every staff, every teacher, every employee at the South Shore Regional School Board, when they hear or see any type of incident, that it is brought to the attention of authority."
With files from Shaina Luck