Peel District School Board (PDSB) recently approved a motion to start hiring more black and indigenous teachers.
The motion was brought forth in a board meeting by Kathy McDonald, a PDSB trustee serving Brampton wards 3/4.
McDonald says the board needs to embark on a targeted recruitment initiative to hire black and indigenous teachers, as black and indigenous students are underperforming academically compared to students of other racial groups.
“There are countless studies, including research from our own board, that have scientifically proven that having black teachers – even one black teacher – can make a difference in a child going to college,” McDonald said.
Citing research from Johns Hopkins University, she states that a low-income black student’s probability of dropping out of school lessens by 29% if the student has even just one black teacher in elementary school.
She makes the same case for indigenous students.
“The research is clear. Seeing yourself reflected in the classroom is important for students’ success,” McDonald said. “Black and indigenous students are not graduating and excelling as their peers.”
While the motion was mostly supported by other trustees, others raised a valid concern that the motion applied to just two groups rather than attempting to be more racially representative of Peel students.
“I can’t support this motion because I represent all members of my community and I think they all deserve the same kind of equal treatment to have their representation in the school,” said trustee Brad MacDonald, representing Mississauga wards 2/8.
He points to statistics indicating that Peel’s population is composed of 50% South Asians people but only 15% of school staff are South Asian, compared to the black population, which makes up 15% of the community and 7% of school staff.
However, McDonald passionately defended the motion, reasserting that black and indigenous students are the most vulnerable and disproportionately affected in the current education system.
She also argues that South Asian students are not failing in school at higher rates than other students and are not dealing with a 40% dropout rate like black students.
After deliberation by trustees, the motion was brought to a vote of 11-3 in favour.
The board is expected to further discuss changes to its hiring practices sometime in the future.
To get a reaction to this motion, CanIndia spoke with one parent who had this to say: “I agree South Asians generally are known for academics rather than dropping out despite having mostly non-South Asian teachers. That has to do with the fact that we parents push them to excel. If we didn’t push our children to work hard in school, they too would be dropping out at a high rate,” she said. It is a known fact that Indian parents place a high value on education, so despite the race or quality of teachers in schools, the student will perform well or reasonably well depending on their aptitude and ability.” -CINEWS