To our Halton District School Board students and families,
My communication to you over the past few months has been centered on our response to the ongoing pandemic and subsequent school closure. However, my intention for writing to you today concerns the persistent and ongoing racism that has led to the events of this past week locally and abroad and has left many feeling angry, frustrated, helpless and searching for answers.
We recognize there are students and families who are feeling vulnerable and acknowledge the ongoing harm, trauma and pain felt by our Black communities and other racialized communities, which has been further deepened as a result of recent events. You’ve likely heard the phrase “We’re All In This Together” which has come to be an expression of solidarity as the world comes together in the face of COVID-19. It is this type of focused and coordinated approach that is critical in responding to anti-Black racism.
The Halton District School Board continues to be committed to ensuring inclusive, equitable and safe spaces for all students and staff. This is affirmed in our current Multi-Year Plan and will be further strengthened in our 2020-2024 version that is currently under development. This new plan will incorporate specific goals and strategies to intentionally confront anti-Black racism in our schools and workplaces.
The incidents of the past week further remind us that we have more work to do, as well as our collective responsibility to intervene and respond to situations where racism is evident. Silence can be misinterpreted as permission to those who commit hateful acts. This is why it is important for us all to ‘speak up’ when we witness these behaviours. This includes naming racism when we see it and confronting those who use harmful language and stereotypes. We are all responsible and accountable for our actions and negligence in addressing anti-Black racism in our schools, workplaces and broader society.
The mental health of our students is especially important at this time. Therefore, I will be asking our staff to check-in with their students over the coming days, particularly students who identify as Black or racialized. The following website from CAMH may be helpful as a starting point in supporting the broader mental health and well-being of those impacted by events like the ones we have experienced recently.
Together we will continue to build school communities that are respectful, inclusive and caring; where all students and staff are respected for their individuality and are empowered to maximize their potential.
Director of Education