OCDSB statement on use of language to prevent harm

OCDSB statement on use of language to prevent harm
Posted on 12/01/2020
OCDSB statement on use of language to prevent harm

The OCDSB is committed to delivering a curriculum that respects and promotes diversity and is culturally relevant and responsive. The delivery of education must honour the best interests of each child, and must ensure that no child experiences harm from the words or actions of instructional leaders or others.

Experiences shared by students and families make clear that the use of racial and other slurs and epithets by staff has a major impact on student learning and well-being and ultimately success in school and life.  As educators and educational support workers, we have a legal, moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that our actions and our words, our course content and resources to support teaching and learning, and our interactions with colleagues, students, families and community is done respectfully, inclusively, with sensitivity and free of bias. 

The recent discussions in the media on this topic served as an important reminder of the need for the OCDSB, as an organization, to make it clear that the use of racial or other slurs or epithets has no place in our District – the uttering or writing or use of racial or other slurs or epithets by staff (Eg. the n-word, pejorative terms used to describe Indigenous peoples, racial, ethnic, religious, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and/or disability attributes etc.) including when reading aloud texts, quoting or teaching course content, is not permitted and cannot ever serve educational purposes. It produces inequities in educational outcomes between targeted and untargeted student groups and results in harm.  All staff have an obligation to intervene and respond sensitively if they hear racial or other slurs or epithets uttered or used by others.

This directive is rooted in the right of a child to access education 

(1) on the basis of equal opportunity; 

(2) that reflects diversity and human rights; 

(3) that develops the child to their fullest potential; and 

(4) without discrimination, 

which is guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code and reflected in the Education Act. It is also aligned with the standards set out in PR.618.CUR on Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity as well as with the Professional Misconduct Regulation (O. Reg. 437/97) under the Ontario College of Teachers Act.

What actions are being taken to support this directive? 

At the OCDSB, we are building a caring and socially responsible culture.  Individually and collectively, we must recognize and harness the power of language and education to effect change and to ensure that no harm comes to any student.

Many of our educators have been engaged with efforts to diversify their teaching resources and to approach their work with an equity lens, both through resources and training provided by the District, as well as through their own initiative. This includes anti-racism training undertaken in September 2020.  However, there is more work to be done. 

The next stage of the Board’s engagement in this area will include a review of the nature of resources that are used and the provision of further guidance and professional development regarding resource selection to encourage the diversification of perspectives, increase skill in teaching critical analysis of rich and challenging texts and to ensure the age appropriateness of resources being taught.

There are many actions underway in the District to help support our practice.

  • Educator Resources - A number of resources exist to help educators navigate texts where multiple perspectives may present complexities to teaching conversations with students. This may include sensitive literature that reflects multiple social identities and experiences. It’s important that the issues are treated respectfully and that conditions in the classroom are set for learning and respectful engagement. The OCDSB equity team has curated a list of resources to help educators on their learning journey and that can be a launching point for selecting diverse curriculum resources. There are also helpful resources available from other school boards (e.g. Peel and Toronto), ETFO and OSSTF, and groups such as Parents For Diversity, which has a diversity library that provides recommendations for learning resources that reflect a variety of different identities.
  • New Resources Being Developed - The OCDSB’s Program and Learning department in partnership with other departments will be working together to create an instructional resource guide to support educators in the teaching of an inclusive program for all students including the selection of texts that represent diverse viewpoints and realities, and guidelines for identifying challenging, sensitive, or controversial texts, preparing educators and their students to teach them in a way that surfaces diverse viewpoints, is trauma sensitive and does no harm.
  • Learning Opportunities - We continue to share external learning opportunities with our staff to explore these issues.
  • Policy and Procedural Updates – The School Board Code of Conduct and the Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity procedures are being updated to reflect this directive.
  • Indigenous, Equity and Human Rights Roadmap – This document, recently released, provides an overview of the work that this organization is committed to undertaking.

Understanding  the appropriate use of language is another demonstration of our commitment to prioritize the dignity and well-being of students in inclusive and caring classrooms.

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