York University professor takes action to address anti-Black racism in schools

Navigating the maze of Ontario’s school system may become easier for parents of Black children, thanks to a series of new information sheets led by York University Faculty of Education Professor Carl James.

Carl James

The information sheets – designed to support parents to be partners in the education of their Black children from JK through to high school – will be unveiled on Saturday, March 23 at a resource launch event  for parents of Black children and community members. The sheets were developed with input from an advisory group of students, parents, teachers and community members who identified the information that parents need to help Black students succeed.

The information sheets mark the first action to address a report, Towards Race Equity in Education, released in April 2017, which found Black students are disproportionately being streamed into applied instead of academic programs, often times below their ability, and are being suspended at a much higher rate than their counterparts.

James led the report which followed consultations with 324 parents, community members, educators, school staff and trustees and identified that Black students face an achievement and opportunity gap in GTA schools.

“Parents of Black children are asking for resources to help them engage with their students’ education and these information sheets are a response to that request,” said James, who is the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora.

“When we did the consultation for the report, we heard the same messages over and over again from parents,” explained James. “These parents said they either had little or no knowledge of the school system, or if they did, they needed some prompts to look for in their child’s development and a list of items to raise with their child’s teachers and the school system.”

The 2017 report revealed:

  • 53 per cent of Black students were in academic programs, compared to 81 per cent of white and 80 per cent of other racialized students;
  • Black students were over twice as likely to be enrolled in the applied program, representing 39 per cent of Black students, compared with 16 percent of white students and 18 per cent of other racialized students; amd
  • By the time Black students finish high school, 42 per cent had been suspended at least once, compared with 18 per cent of white students and 18 per cent of other racialized students.

The sheets contain various tips including: create a space at home to do homework; watch for signs that suggest a lack of attention to your child in class; and supplement your child’s education with books about Black history and events that promote Black history, culture and achievements.

“These information sheets will help empower parents to engage with their children’s teachers and the school system,” said James, who co-wrote the sheets with consultant Tana Turner. “They will inform parents about the placement of their children in particular education programs and how those placements might either enable – or limit – educational opportunities and possibilities for their children. The sheets will also help parents understand the role that different people play in terms of the education of their child, and who they might need to contact.”

Note: Space is limited for the event so members of the public are required to RSVP.