We have all seen the disturbing and heart-wrenching video of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died while in police custody in the City of Minneapolis. Many may also have seen coverage of the resulting protests that erupted in Minneapolis and across the US. While this incident of anti-Black racism occurred in the US, we know we have to face the truth of anti-Black racism in Canada, in York Region and in our schools. Incidents of anti-Black racism have a profound effect on members of our York Region District School Board family, particularly on our Black staff, students and community. These feelings run the gamut from sadness to anger to fear for safety. We want you to know that we here at the YRDSB remain resolute in our stand against anti-Black racism and against all forms of hate and oppression. We want all families to also know that we remain vigilant in our conviction to stand together to confront anti-Black racism and violence wherever and whenever it occurs.
We know how important it is to support our students and families during this painful time. We also appreciate the importance of creating a safe space where our students can speak freely about their feelings and how events of anti-Black racism affect them. Therefore, we will be reaching out to our Black community partners and working with our professional staff to create these spaces. Under the current circumstances, this means securing a technology solution that works best to create this space. We will spend the next few days to find this solution and will announce details as soon as they are available. We recognize and appreciate the importance of having identity-specific support available whenever required and, as such, are working to identify and retain the services of Black professionals for such a session.
Our board is fortunate to have a strong Alliance of Educators for Black Students (AEBS) and partnerships with community agencies, including those that work with the Black community who we know will support those affected. We’ll work to pool these resources for our students and their families.
Even though we remain physically apart at this time, we will all stand together in our determination to confront racism, hate and violence. Former US President Barack Obama said in response to this tragic event , “If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must do better.” We know anti-Black racism is not confined to American society, as it is unfortunately the lived experience of many here in Canada. At the YRDSB, we are firmly committed to strengthening our resolve in working toward removing systemic barriers that prevent our students from growing up and thriving in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals. We also want all our students and staff to learn and work in environments that are identity affirming. Currently, if you have concerns about your child’s emotional well-being, please do not hesitate to contact your school so that we may arrange for the appropriate supports to be put in place.
We remain united as a community in the face of these upsetting incidents of anti-Black racism. Together, we must name these acts of hate as deplorable because they are just that. Each of our students and staff needs to feel safe and be safe and everyone has a responsibility to create these environments. By bringing these hateful acts to the forefront of discussion, supporting each other and taking action, we reinforce our commitment and dedication to the equitable world that we must build together.
Director of Education