‘There is a lot of hostility, transphobia, and homophobia in our community.’
The Public Schools Branch is initiating a pilot programme to teach staff and students about racism in five P.E.I. schools.
The pilot will include Queen Charlotte Intermediate, East Wiltshire Intermediate, Birchwood Intermediate, Colonel Gray Senior High School, and Westisle Composite High School.
MLAs were briefed by school administrators during a parliamentary standing committee meeting on Monday.
The ultimate goal, according to Terri MacAdam, director of student services for the Public School Branch, is for every student who enters the school to feel safe, included, and a part of the community.
She explained that the schools were picked because they had previously experienced challenges or were working on diversity projects.
“They’re conducting extra and supplementary education for staff in those schools,” MacAdam explained. “They’ve set up weekly meetings with students, so one week it might be Black Cultural Society, another week PEERS Alliance, and another week Beyond the Brim.”
“They’re simply trying to be really present in those buildings,” says one student, “so that there is someone in the school once a week on a rotating basis that students can go to have a discussion.”
A positive school environment
The pilot project’s goals include teaching intermediate and high school students and staff, fostering a healthy school culture, and forming a school advisory council comprised of students, parents, and staff.
The school board is also getting support from a private consulting firm with its discipline model and how it handles diversity incidents.
PSB director Norbert Carpenter spelt out some of the issues that schools face during his presentation to MLAs, emphasising that schools cannot fight racism on their own.
‘It’s just incorrect and terrible.’
While the school board was collecting feedback on its gender diversity criteria for Island schools, Carpenter said he was surprised by how harsh some of the comments from parents and members of the public were.
The goal of the rules is to make the learning environment more inclusive and safe for all students while also displaying tolerance for all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Carpenter said the comments were difficult to accept as a father, educator, and someone who has loved ones who are members of the LGBTQ community.
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