Kingston school board trustee aims to combat racism

A Kingston-area school board trustee is bringing forward a motion to combat anti-Black racism.

On Wednesday evening, Limestone District School Board trustees will vote on a motion from Judith Brown.

The motion asks staff to undertake engagement with the Black community to provide input and advice on actions to address racism in the classroom. It is a model similar to that of the Indigenous Advisory Committee.

Read more: Woman speaks out about alleged anti-Black racism at Kingston military organization

Brown was elected in 2018 after decades of teaching in the Limestone District School Board. Throughout those years, she says anti-Black racism was uttered in many of the classrooms.

“A Grade 3 student told me he did not want to be taught by an f-ing n-word teacher,” said Brown.

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She says that incidents like these inspired her to run for school board trustee, and by being at the decision-makers’ table, she hopes to make real change when it comes to how the school board addresses racism.

“Collaborative, proactive and ongoing dialogue between Black families and representatives from the board will help Limestone schools anticipate and disrupt some of the negative experiences and disparate outcomes that Black students have faced,” said Brown.

It is an issue that many Black students face across eastern Ontario.

Read more: Two Queen’s graduate students speak out about their experience with racism in Kingston

In Brockville, Cindy Casselman has taken it upon herself to help local educators learn how to combat anti-Black racism.

She says she has organized a three-hour seminar on Nov. 18 for area principals conducted by Ketcia Peters, the former co-chair of the Ottawa Police Service’s equity council.

“Power and privilege, oppression, are the kind of things she will teach along with being able to see that everyone has bias, whether we realize it or not, locating what that is,” said Casselman.

Read more: BLM vigil organizer says people in Kingston’s Black community deal with racism regularly

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As for the Kingston-area, Brown’s motion will be voted on by trustees on Wednesday night, and if passed, Brown says the equity team will get to work.

“As Blacks, we cannot do this alone.”

“We need allies and I feel strongly that I have allies with me at the board,” said Brown.

In addition to Kingston and Brockville’s efforts to address anti-Black racism, school boards across Ontario are asking students to complete a student census to identify and eliminate discrimination and bias from schools and classrooms.

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