Community turns out to discuss black-focused schools

The idea of schools focused on black education was the subject of a meeting at a Toronto high school on Thursday night.

Parents, students and community leaders debated the idea of schools focused on black educationat a meeting at a Toronto high school Thursday night.

Those who attended the session at North Albion Collegiate seemed to support the idea of starting schools with curricula heavily weighted toward black history and culture.

Most of the 200 participants were black parents, students and community leaders. Many said something needs to be done to encourage black children, who have significantly higher drop-out rates compared with white children.

Princess Boucher, who was one of the local residents to speak at the meeting, said the public school system just isn't working for black children. Just look at the suspension rates, she said.

"Every time there's a situation, you can guarantee the black child will be sent home with a note, as opposed to the white children. They will just get to go home to cool off," she said.

The Toronto District School Board has already experimented with black-focused social studies courses and other programs aimed at black children.It is also running a grade school and high school for First Nations children, as well as a high school for gay and lesbian teens.

Supporters say changing the curriculum at several schools located in the city's predominantly black neighbourhoods wouldn't be too much of a stretch.

But critics say black-only schools suggest racism and segregation. Other critics say the best thing to do is to improve the existing public school system, not start a separate one.

When the idea was raised a few years ago, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he wasn't comfortable with the concept, preferring instead that children stay in the multi-racial, multi-denominational public system.

A second public meeting will be held at Northview Heights Secondary at 7 p.m. on Monday.

If the school board decides to push ahead with the idea, the schools could be up and running by next September.