There’s still a long way to go when it comes to anti-racism education and work within Delta schools for both students and staff.
That was the sentiments of four students who appeared as a delegation at the February Delta School Board meeting.
On Feb. 22, students from North Delta’s Burnsview and Sands secondary’s and South Delta Secondary presented what they’ve learned, the work they’ve already done and the next steps planned for their schools’ anti-racism clubs and committees.
Collectively, the students highlighted the importance of creating and increasing anti-racism education opportunities, like workshops and school-wide assemblies, for students of all ages.
Adrielle McFarlane from Burnsview said their anti-racism club’s survey, which was meant to identify where and how students felt the most impacted by racism, was so widely ignored that it was inconclusive.
“I would like to personally note that, within all my classes thus far, as well as my older siblings who have graduated from Burnsview in the classes of 2019 and 2021, we learn next to nothing about the BIPOC community and how they have shaped Turtle Island, or what is settler Canada today,” she said.
This lack of awareness and understanding is contributing to the hurtful, racist exchanges that occur within Burnsview and beyond, she said.
Going forward, she proposed that Burnsview set aside time for an assembly in February to properly celebrate black history and culture, starting in 2023.
“Black culture is used every day in mainstream conversation, music, fashion and media, and with the height of the Black Lives Matters movement, and the increased use of derogatory comments I have personally experienced as a black student here in Burnsview, I believe this is a very pressing issue that needs to be addressed,” said McFarlane.
She also requested that faculty take time within their classes to promote the survey the club is trying to gather information from.
Mason Carter from Sands said their school’s anti-racism committee also conducted a student survey and found several themes within their results.
These included the findings that students tend to excuse racist actions as jokes, that students want to see more diversity in the holidays celebrated within schools and that students know racism is bad, but don’t necessarily know why.
From there, he said, the committee decided to focus on educating students about what makes racism wrong and developed a workshop for students, led by students. Since then, they’ve been working to optimize that workshop to be used as an education tool inside and outside of Sands.
Carter said the committee is currently hosting the workshop for Grade 8 students and have completed two of the four planned sessions, but hope to take the workshop to elementary schools within the district.
“I do understand that there’s an argument that racism is a topic that makes people uncomfortable, and that we have a fear of bringing it up with young children, but if we look into it and we look at where they are learning these racial beliefs from, they’re learning it from home, from their parents, from the media, they’re exposed to the topic of racism every day,” he said.
He added that the Sands committee is also looking into creating a “culture convention” for students to showcase their ethnic backgrounds and heritage while learning about other cultures.
SDSS students Tyson Lingham and Sameer Jaffer highlighted that their club has created an informative bulletin board and an Instagram page to spread awareness, in addition to selling hand-designed anti-racism T-shirts.
Trustees thanked the students for their presentations and agreed that more needs to be done within Delta schools about anti-racism.
They also thanked Brooke Moore, district principal of inquiry and innovation, and Satnam Chahal, district principal in inclusive learning, for co-chairing the district’s anti-racism committee and for collaborating with students on anti-racism initiatives.
To visit the Delta school district’s anti-racism website, visit https://deltalearns.ca/antiracism/.