School Board Trustees of the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) voted Wednesday night to approve the draft of their 2020-2023 Equity Action Plan. The plan lists 45 recommended actions in four areas, with the intent to eliminate systemic barriers against race or gender, for students and staff alike.
“I have to give a shout out to the Equity Team in Limestone,” said Trustee Judith Brown during a radio interview with CBC the following morning, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. “I find that they are on the ball. A statement was put out in June of this year. Here we are in November and they are putting out what is required, moving things into action. They are taking action and I am very proud of the work that they are doing.”
Addressing anti-Black, anti-Indigenous racism
At the Limestone Board meeting on Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2020, Trustees called for a greater emphasis on measures to specifically combat anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. Limestone’s Equity Inclusion Coordinator, Suchetan James, said at that time that anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism had been largely ignored in Canada and were in need of immediate attention from the Board.
He said that he had never seen such an uptake for change on the issue of racism in Kingston as he had witnessed in late May and June 2020, as much of the word mobilized in outcry following the death of George Floyd.
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, LDSB’s Student Trustees put forth a request, supported by Trustee Brown, to make anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism a key area of focus for the 2020-2021 LDSB Strategic Plan. The motion passed unanimously.
Trustees also unanimously approved the draft Equity Action Plan Wednesday night, which includes such measures as a literature review, anti-racism resources and professional development for staff, and the bolstering of equity, diversity and inclusion measures in recruitment and retention. The Board’s next steps are to collect feedback from students, staff and the community.
Trustee Brown is continuing to take efforts further, asking the Board staff to commit to engaging with the Black community in LDSB through consultation or the formation of an ongoing caucus, similar to the Board’s Indigenous Advisory Committee.
“I feel that it’s very important to stress why respectfully including Black students, Black families and the parents of Black children in the work of system improvement is so vital,” she said Thursday, Nov. 13, 2020.
“Collaborative, proactive and ongoing dialogue between Black families and representatives from the Board will help Limestone schools anticipate and disrupt some of the negative experiences and disparate outcomes that Black students have faced, such as the invisibility of Canadian Black experience in all subject areas.”
Motion tabled for December
Trustee Brown also wants staff to update the Board on their plans for the use of racialized achievement data for LDSB students, with a focus on the results of Black and Indigenous students. This data is intended to inform strategies to improve their experience and outcomes. Both requests are part of a motion scheduled for discussion at the Board’s next meeting, on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020.
She said that incorporating more Black and Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum, in all subject areas, is an important step being implemented in the Equity Action Plan.
“Everyone will be represented,” she said.
A former educator and a Black woman herself, Brown said that she had, on occasion, personally experienced and witnessed racism during her career.
“At staff meetings, I would make teachers aware of what was going on, and most teachers listened to me and they were very open and positive. But you know there’s always one or two that feel that you’re paranoid,” she said.
“When you’re in this struggle, to deal with anti-Black racism, you have to be strong. I like the words of the late icon John Lewis,” she said, referencing the American statesman and Civil Rights leader who passed away on Friday, Jul. 17, 2020.
“He said, and I quote because these words helped me: ‘Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime but never ever be afraid to make some noise, and get in good trouble. Necessary trouble.’”