Best BITs: Preventing discrimination in schools

This week I’ve been focused on the overall message when reading pages 98 to 113 about how discrimination is embedded in the structures of our schools. I feel very protective of public education and how it needs to be accessible to all who attend.  Specifically, authors Zac Chase and Chris Lehmann highlight the barriers to learning that are perpetuated against race, sexual orientation and ability.

The authors go so far as to say that we need to be deliberately anti-racist; that we need to be deliberately inclusive in our heteronormative culture; and to create spaces for all student voices to be heard.

Are policies, procedures and structures the only place in our schools where we allow discrimination to persist?  Can you see areas in your school that need improvement?  Have you made any changes that have improved access for all student voices?

Last year in #BIT15Reads, we read a book by educator Jose Vilson that really touched me called: This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education by Jose Vilson — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists It’s just a really moving book as Jose writes passionately (like you Leah), and from a very raw place.  His blog is also amazing: The Jose Vilson | Educator – Writer – Activist – Father

Leah Kearney says: “Anti-discriminatory policies need to be in place to disrupt long-standing bias towards marginalized and racialized members that occur throughout our school systems, law enforcement systems and justice systems. We know that teenage males of colour seem to be on the receiving end of disciplinary measure much more than their counterparts, this is clearly evident in the data. But, what surprises people is that this bias occurs towards our earliest learners as well. Last month a study was released by the Yale Child Study Centre that revealed youngsters in child-care settings are also being regarded differently depending on their ethnicity and gender. “Implicit bias is like the wind — you can’t see it, but you can sure see its effects,” said Yale’s Walter Gilliam, an associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology and the lead researcher on the study. Gilliam said the findings show that implicit biases “do not begin with black men and police. They begin with young black boys and their preschool teachers — if not earlier.” Studies like this demand that we pay attention to our own biases and take measures to address them. Here is a link to a good article on the study;

Study: Teachers’ ‘implicit bias’ starts in preschool

Kate Johnson-McGregor says: “Certainly the issue of race and culture in our schools is at the forefront right now with the Truth and Reconciliation movement. I have noticed a significant increase in students looking for literature written by indigenous authors this fall – so much so that I’ve been researching and have just purchased two dozen books (fiction and non) to help serve the demand. So – I would say that as much as I strive to make my school library learning commons an inclusive space, perhaps I had not been as sensitive as I could have been to the FNMI literature collection. All school programs are limited by budget constraints and curriculum demands – and I suppose that it all comes down to timing. I have tried to keep current (I bought the TRC publications last fall when they were released for our non-fiction collection) and there is a certain amount of “supply and demand” to be considered. My goal is to be responsive to cultural, social and political shifts, as the students need me to be. So now is the time to invest in indigenous authors. And teaching in a high school on the edge of Six Nations, it is wonderful to see my students excited about seeing themselves and their culture reflected in literature.”

 

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