#TDSBlacklist: Anti-Oppression Training for Principal Aitchison before Sept 2018
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The (former) principal of the Etobicoke School for the Arts (ESA), Peggy Aitchison, has admitted to racial profiling after she compiled a list of all students of colour at the school and passed the list out to teachers in order to track “achievement gaps.”
Aitchison admitted to creating the list at a meeting organized by students in June 2018. The list was presented to staff at a meeting in November 2017 and students discovered it at the end of the school year.
Days after the news broke, Aitchison asked to be transferred to a new school and Toronto District School Board (TDSB) agreed to her request for transfer.
Two letters were sent to the TDSB on June 28, 2018 by ESA alumni. The first called for Aitchison to complete and provide proof of Equity, Inclusion, Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and Respect in the Workplace training before the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, should we not hear of her resignation before that time. The second called for a collaborative hiring process for the incoming principal, involving the input of students, alumni, parents and teachers. We stressed the need for support for racialized students, specifically Black students, returning to ESA. We advised that this support be developed by the students themselves.
To date, the response from the TDSB to our letters has been unsatisfactory. While they state an acknowledgement of the importance of anti-oppression work, they are unwilling to provide specific details about actionable steps they are taking towards reconciliation. The TDSB needs to be held accountable to their own anti-discrimination policies.
1) Transferring Peggy Aitchison to another principal position without adequate remedial education puts other students in the TDSB at risk.
It is of significant importance that the anti-oppression tools and resources available to education professionals by the TDSB are of quality, but also that they are willfully and eagerly accessed by educators. We do not contest the scrupulousness or content of TDSB equity policy and plans, but are concerned with is how they are enacted and enforced board-wide.
2) The TDSB is not listening to the input of affected individuals.
Students affected by this incident of racism have quite clearly expressed their need for individual apologies and an actionable demonstration of accountability from Peggy Aitchison. The TDSB should be asking for input and listening to the needs of populations they wish to advocate for and act in alliance with as an inviolable first step in restorative action.
3) It is clear from our communications with students and families that this is one instance of racism in the TDSB, but that it does not exist in isolation.
We hope that restorative action in this scenario will be a conduit for positive change on a larger scale.
1) We would like a detailed report of the specific accountability and anti-oppression training undertaken by Peggy Aitchison before the beginning of the September 2018 school year.
We understand and appreciate that learning takes time. What we are seeking before September 2018 is proof that there is a comprehensive restorative plan in place and that this remediation is underway.
2) We want recognition by the TDSB that the apologies offered by Peggy Aitchison and the TDSB were not adequate.
Testimony from alumni and students present at the June meeting indicate that Aitchison’s apology felt scripted, not sincere. They have also raised concerns over Aitchison’s assertion that she is sensitive to racial issues because she maintains a close relationship to some POC former-students. Knowing and caring about particular students of colour does not mean she is incapable of racism. That she would raise this point in her apology further indicates her lack of understanding of appropriate behaviour and response.
3) Individual apologies for affected individuals.
There is no reasonable explanation as to why students affected by Peggy Aitchison’s racist actions should not receive an individual apology when they have clearly and directly identified this as a necessary component in their processing of the experience.
1) A pledge from the TDSB to enable student groups to envision and execute the support they need would be a significant positive step in this process.
We extend this suggestion to the TDSB in its pursuit of progress in this area – ask for and listen to the input of the populations you allege to support. Do not assume you know what they need or how support should be delivered.
More information can be found here:
Father files human rights claim after discovering 'black list' of students in Etobicoke school
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