The following statement was issued by Janet Fraser, Chair of the Vancouver School Board during its meeting on Monday, June 22, 2020.
Deeply rooted racism and discrimination has perpetuated systemic inequity for generations. This is unacceptable in our society.
As the Board, we oversee and govern our public education system. During our term, racially motivated speech and behaviours that have occurred in our schools has impressed upon us the vital role the education system must play in eliminating racism.
We continue to hear from members of the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour communities and beyond, that here in Vancouver we must do more to truly make our schools a place where everyone belongs. We take these words to heart. We have begun important anti-racism work to foster more safe and caring schools that promote mutual respect and that are inclusive and welcoming places.
As a Board, we set policy direction to enhance the District’s work in addressing racism, including:
- Adoption of an anti-discrimination and elimination of racism policy;
- Hired a district resource teacher to deliver programs and build staff capacity to provide anti-racism education
- Partnered with community members to mark and celebrate diversity in our schools;
- Affirmed articles of the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- Re-examined our school naming policy and procedures such that only place-based names will be commemorated moving forward – such as Xpey’ and šxʷwəq̓ʷəθət Crosstown;
- Condemned anti-Asian racist incidents that took place in our city following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Began a colonial audit to examine our policies and procedures to identify and remove barriers, to enable the full participation of members of Indigenous communities within the District. The findings of the colonial audit will be linked to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls-to-Action and will inform further actions; and,
- Directed staff to create a strategic plan to address racism and discrimination.
As a Board, we continue to look for ways to effect real change, through motions and policy development. This work may not seem tangible and it may be seen as slow in bringing about a better reality for our students, their families and our staff. But the work done around the Board table is vital to dismantle oppression in all its forms – subtle, blatant and systemic.
As trustees, we are heartened when we learn how educators incorporate lived-experiences and the examination of events both in our own city and around the world into their lesson planning to help students understand their world and their agency within it. We are encouraged when we see students take an active leadership role as they did in February at the District’s first Anti-Racism Youth Summit. We are grateful for the expertise of dedicated professionals who share leading-edge resources and teaching strategies to bring anti-racism education to our classrooms, hallways and school grounds. We are indebted to those who share their lived-experiences and ideas for continual improvement. With them, we agree: more can be done and more needs to be done.
As our superintendent recently stated in her message to the District, we all have a key and critical role to play in anti-racism education. In this way, we seek to be allies. As trustees, we are continually learning as we implement ways to create an education system that is free of racism, bigotry and discrimination in all its forms. We welcome and encourage our school communities to join with us in our work and our acknowledgement that there is much more to be done to truly ensure all students, their families and staff feel safe, respected, welcome and truly included – everywhere in the Vancouver School District.