School District 73 (Kamloops-Thompson) has implemented policy changes, staff training and new education resources in response to a 2020 petition to teach Black history and experiences.

A district working group that included former SD73 students Mary Falade and Joy Kwak has developed an Anti-Racism and Human Rights plan aimed at including the perspectives, contributions, and experiences of people of colour (POC) in curriculum and school resources.

Falade is the former student who launched the petition, which collected 1,009 signatures.

“The curriculum was largely centered around white people in all subjects,” she said. “The history of racial oppression in Canada was always skimmed through and was typically an aside to whatever we were actually studying. It was never a topic of its own.”

She said current occurrences and experiences of racism were never taught at all. The majority of students did not realize that POC still encounter racism in schools, workplaces, on streets and while shopping.

“Lack of POC representation in education not only encourages racist behaviour and thinking in white students, but also encourages internalized racism in POC students,” she said. “Young POC that only see white representation, often come to view white people as the standard.

“Teenagers are especially concerned with conformity and meeting norms. By including POC representation, you are not only teaching white students to respect and appreciate POC but are also teaching POC to respect and appreciate themselves.”

Based on recommendations and findings from the working group, the district has revised its policies to better support complainants in racist or discriminatory incidents. It has also developed a procedure to address acts of racism and discrimination.

“We are committed to providing anti-racism education and supporting students who experience racism and discrimination,” said Vessy Mochikas, director of instruction. “It is important to ensure students from diverse backgrounds see themselves reflected in the curriculum, and that all students have an opportunity to learn about different cultures.”

Training and professional development to address racism is being provided to staff across the district. Anti-racist educational resources have been gathered and provided to schools, along with lesson plans and online resources. District curriculum is being reviewed to ensure it addresses diversity and the experiences of different cultures.

“This is such an important step in the right direction,” said Kwak. “Students of colour and other minorities are minorities for a reason, and thus many feel excluded or ostracized from the community. Although school is a great place to learn and grow, students of colour can only do this effectively if provided the right ways of ensuring accountability and protecting POC students.”

Kwak is currently an International Development and Political Science student at McGill University. Falade is in her third year at the University of British Columbia, studying Psychology and English. Together, they are also the co-founders of Motion of Colour, a local youth-led anti-racism organization.

Their commitment to change includes watching for the impact of the district’s anti-racism program on students and staff.

“To me, success will be the self-confidence and pride that POC students have for themselves, as well as the equal representation of all stories in educational materials. I think success will look like youth-led initiatives and projects that reflect the diversity of the SD73 student body and advocate for a wide range of interests.”

This story has been reproduced with permission from School District 73 (Kamloops-Thompson). The original posting can be found here.