An “intentional hiring policy” to employ more Black and Indigenous teachers is needed to supply badly-needed role models for two significantly-marginalized groups of students, public school trustees have decided.

In an 11-3 recorded vote, the Peel District School Board approved a motion Monday authorizing a “targeted recruitment initiative” aimed at creating greater staff diversity.

Trustee Kathy McDonald (Brampton Wards 3-4) , who sponsored the motion, said “countless studies . . . have scientifically proven that having Black teachers, even one Black teacher, can make a difference in a child going to college.

“Seeing yourself reflected in the classroom is important for student success,” continued McDonald. “The rationale is clear, Black and Indigenous students are not graduating and excelling as their peers are.”

The motion, which was “fine-tuned” by a board human resources committee to better withstand potential legal challenges, follows up on the board’s We Rise Together initiative. That program presented an action plan to try to address the widespread alienation of numerous young Black students, who struggle in school and drop out at much higher rates than the general populace.

“This is about what’s doing right for our vulnerable students,” McDonald said.

A special section of human rights policy allows the board to address this specifically identified problem without infringing on equitable hiring policies, she explained.

Veteran trustee David Green (Brampton Wards 1-5) said he’s seen report after report outlining problems for marginalized students and “nothing is done. The time has come for us to take action . . . to listen to the voice” of students and parents.

Trustees opposing the motion suggested it shouldn’t be limited to just two communities.

It’s hard to change overnight, “when you’re hiring 300 teachers (a year) and you have 12,000,” said trustee Brad MacDonald (Wards 2-8 Mississauga).

Parents in other communities want to see their faces better reflected too, he argued.

MacDonald said 50 per cent of Peel students are South Asian, compared to only 15 per cent of staff. The Black population of students is 15 per cent, corresponding to 7 per cent of staff.

“I can’t support a motion that goes halfway,” MacDonald said.

Trustee John Marchant (Mississauga Ward 1-7) said the specific emphasis on certain ethnic populations is justified because “young Black men are being treated horribly by our educational system in this country.” Far fewer graduate and many more are suspended and expelled. There’s an epidemic of suicides among Canadian Indigenous youth.

“These two specific groups are horribly marginalized and disenfranchised within our communities,” Marchant said. “It’s about time the board took responsibility for something it, “has been failing to act on for some time.”

Trustee Robert Crocker (Wards 6-11) supported the motion, but questioned whether consultation with interested groups and the public was broad enough. He suggested “it might have to be tweaked. I hope we don’t have to backtrack on it.”

In response to the concerns that the motion was too specifically targeted, McDonald said South Asian and Asian students do not face the challenging 40 per cent dropout rate that black students do.

Originally posted on by John Stewart on March 29, 2019