Ottawa

Racial slurs have no place in the classroom, OCDSB declares

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has issued a statement declaring the harm caused by using racial slurs in the classroom far outweighs any possible educational gains.

Using offensive language 'cannot ever serve educational purposes'

Camille Williams-Taylor, director of education for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, says there are ways to engage in difficult conversations in classrooms, without using racial slurs. (Julie Ireton, CBC)

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) has issued a statement declaring the harm caused by using racial slurs in the classroom far outweighs any possible educational gains.

On Tuesday, the city's largest school board said staff are forbidden from uttering, writing or otherwise using such offensive terms, including while reading aloud or quoting from literature.

"[Doing so] cannot ever serve educational purposes," the statement said. "It produces inequities in educational outcomes between targeted and untargeted student groups and results in harm. All staff have an obligation to intervene and respond sensitively if they hear racial or other slurs or epithets uttered or used by others."

There are ways of engaging with a difficult conversation about issues of race or difference or human rights without actually having to utter the words in the classroom.- Camille Williams-Taylor, OCDSB

The OCDSB said many staff received anti-racism training in September, and said it will be reviewing how to handle the teaching of "rich and challenging texts."

"We recognize that there are some texts that may be used for critical thought — particularly with older grades," said Camille Williams-Taylor, the director of education for OCDSB.

"But there are ways of engaging with a difficult conversation about issues of race or difference or human rights without actually having to utter the words in the classroom."

The directive, which also mentions "recent discussions in the media" on the topic, comes weeks after a white University of Ottawa professor's use of the N-word during a class discussion about reclaiming oppressive language led to her suspension. The ensuing debate over freedom of speech spread from the U of O campus to the national stage.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

now