Toronto

'A culture that must change': Review finds black students disproportionately suspended in Peel

Ontario's education minister has issued more than two dozen directives to the Peel District School Board following a review of the board looking at anti-black racism. 

Ontario education minister says accounts of systemic racism 'deeply troubling'

Recent school board data shows that about 83 per cent of secondary school students in the board are racialized, and the reviewers say about two-thirds of teachers in the board are white. (CBC)

Ontario's education minister has issued more than two dozen directives to the Peel District School Board following a review of the board looking at anti-black racism. 

Stephen Lecce has asked the board to regularly report on equity, conduct a diversity audit, develop a learning plan for senior staff on equity and anti-black racism, track race-based data on suspensions and consider apologizing to the black community. 

The third-party review found that black students are only 10.2 per cent of the secondary school population, but about 22.5 per cent of the students receiving suspensions. 

"The report I think unveils deep-seated culture of discrimination, racism that is deeply disturbing to be quite frank. I think the report sheds light on a culture that must change," Lecce told reporters Friday.

"Every community right across the Golden Horseshoe and right across Ontario is seeing challenges ... however in Peel, it is acute."

The reviewers heard anecdotally that some principals "use any excuse" to suspend black students, including wearing hoodies or hoop earrings.

Recent school board data shows that about 83 per cent of secondary school students in the board are racialized, and the reviewers say about two-thirds of teachers in the board are white. 

Lecce said one element of the report that was especially troubling was that disproportionate numbers of black students are being streamed into applied streams of education, rather than into university-focused courses.

"When you see a young person literally being held back not by because perhaps they lack drive or ambition but because the system doesn't necessarily give them the same opportunity equal opportunity that requires action," he said. 

He added that the accounts of systemic racism and discrimination in the report are "deeply troubling and will not be tolerated."

The board says it commits to taking immediate action on all of the directives. 

If change doesn't happen, Lecce said, he is prepared to act. What that action might look like, he didn't specify.

With files from CBC News

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