GUYSBOROUGH – Earlier this month, a student from Chedabucto Education Centre / Guysborough Academy (CECGA) posted a note to social media stating that, although she was not Black or a person of colour, she had seen her friends face racism at the school. The post specifically highlights the bystander problem, alleging that some students made fun of other ethnicities, while other students and teachers heard the comments and ignored them.
Several students allegedly targeted by racist comments recently were contacted by The Journal. After consultation with their parents/guardians, they decided against speaking to media at this time about their experience.
The social media post was brought to the attention of the Strait Regional Centre for Education (SRCE) Coordinator of Communications Deanna Gillis and CECGA Principal Barbara Avery. In response to The Journal’s request for comment, Gillis said, “Staff in the SRCE work hard each and every day to promote and celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity; to ensure schools are welcoming, safe, respectful, inclusive, culturally responsive and supportive learning environments where all students feel accepted, valued and a sense of belonging. Any type of racialized and culturally insensitive language and/or behaviour is not acceptable, will not be ignored and most certainly will not be tolerated at any of the schools in the SRCE.”
“The Provincial School Code of Conduct Policy states all students and members of a school community will feel and be safe in their school,” said Avery. “Our school administration believes knowledge is power so creating awareness and prevention of unacceptable behaviours is incorporated into daily classroom lessons and school routines and expectations. Being proactive by supporting our students and providing them with the tools and knowledge to make good choices is vital.”
Avery gave examples of measures taken at the schools to achieve greater awareness and prevention. “For example, we have teachers and support staff who have been trained on embedding culturally responsive approaches and practices into their curriculum; our staff in the African Canadian Heritage and Friendship Centre also work with teachers to align an Afrocentric perspective to curriculum as well as Treaty Education programming throughout the grade levels. We also provide students with opportunities to participate in diversified and inclusive presentations and workshops that help to educate and raise awareness.”
The principal also noted what happens when incidents of racism occur: “When unacceptable behaviours occur, we respond with more in-depth prevention and intervention programs. This may include but is not limited to working with students to coach new behaviours, develop a plan for restitution and assist students in a restorative approach. We support all students who are involved or impacted by the behaviour to help restore a positive and inclusive school climate,” wrote Avery.
Gillis concluded her email response by stating, “Together – students, staff, parents/guardians and community partners - we have a shared responsibility to advance student well-being by promoting diverse, respectful, safe, welcoming, inclusive, culturally responsive and socially just learning environments and communities.”