In their most recent board meeting, the Peel District School Board (PDSB) reported that Black students in elementary and secondary schools are suspended at a much higher rate than their peers.
Specifically, Black students account for 22.5 per cent of suspensions, even though they make up 10.2 per cent of the student population. The meeting reveals 78 per cent of secondary students and 40 per cent of elementary school students were being suspended for “other” categorical reasons, including for wearing hoodies and hoop earrings.
In their report, PDSB observes the Ministry’s Directive #21 Student Discipline, a policy designed to address disparities and disproportionalities in suspensions and expulsions.
The mandate also serves as a guide for schools to ensure Black and Indigenous students with special education needs are not excluded.
The document provides solutions for educators to implement within the education system to ensure fairness and mitigate bias.
In the report, the Board writes, “Progress Report #2 highlights the steps that the Board has taken to transform our approach to student discipline, to centre student safety, belonging and wellbeing while doing so in a way that is anti-discriminatory.”
These alternative solutions include steps on how principals and vice-principals handle student misconduct, including “ongoing system” training for principals and vice-principals “to conduct student disciplinary processes in ways that are procedurally fair.”
As stated in the report, “it is critical that the Board creates the conditions, the policies, and operating procedures necessary to eliminate the disparities and disproportionalities in student discipline and that the Board holds itself and all administrators accountable to that end.”
The training for principals and vice-principals consists of three modules. The first covers the eliminating of systematic discrimination, the second looks at adhering to regulation, and the third observes applying procedural fairness.
In more detail, Interim Policy #89 outlines that rules surrounding the suspension of kindergarten to grade three students have been expunged from the Boards guidelines.
The Board has taken the initiative to ensure that past records of elementary student suspension are not used in “progressive discipline decisions.” This practice has impacted Black and Indigenous students in the past making it inappropriate to further allow this policy to continue. Currently, the Board expunged a total of 1,789 suspension records.
Like Interim Policy #89, a new revised framework was structured called Policy #48: Safe and Accepting Schools. As written, “all decisions relating to student discipline at the PDSB are made within human rights and an anti-racism, and anti-oppression framework and require that all disciplinary decisions accord with Part XIII of the Education Act.”
This means that decisions on whether a student is suspended or not will follow a more rigid and structured unbiased framework.
By addressing these issues, PDSB has opened alternative ways for Black students to be treated equally and equitably. This will eliminate disparities in the education system and address disproportionate suspensions.
Razia is currently completing a specialist in molecular biology with minors in chemistry and statistics. She began writing for The Medium as a news writer over a year ago and took this opportunity as a way to challenge herself and step out of her comfort zone. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, painting, photography, and is a music enthusiast. She is also a huge Potterhead (anyone in Ravenclaw?!). For any queries, you can connect with her through LinkedIn.