October 31, 2018

Response to Toronto Star Column: “Latest anti-To Kill A Mockingbird campaign rings as hollow as the rest”

Black students and their parents have been complaining about the demeaning representation of Black folks in their school curriculum and in particular, To Kill A Mockingbird for years. As leaders and advocates for social and institutional change in our community, we the members of the Peel District School Board's We Rise Together Community Advisory Committee are not surprised by the Toronto Star's response to this courageous move by the Board to teach this novel from an anti-oppression lens.

As a community, we know and have experienced whose voices get heard when we the Black community seek change. We also know that others often feel justified in offering their opinions about how and what we are feeling and experiencing before change can happen. We are not seeking validation we are simply stating facts. We applaud the PDSB for listening to the concerns of our Black students and families in the region of Peel. 

The fact that the N-word is used repeatedly is negated in the overall conversation of its impact on Black students in today's society. The N-word is derogatory wherever and whenever it is used, even in Pulitzer Prize novels. The use of this influential novel requires more than frank conversations and a presumption of institutional empathy and intellectual rigor. It requires the courageous leadership and direction from Director Peter Joshua and Associate Director Poleen Grewal to ensure the students are learning in an environment that is consistently challenging, thoughtful and sensitive to the complexity of experiences our students represent.

In its We Rise Together Action Plan to Support Black Students, the Board includes as one of its aims the idea that Black students will see themselves reflected in classroom curriculum, learning materials, displays and learning resources; that students will feel valued, respected and included in their school communities. The Board is demonstrating its understanding of and commitment to the concerns of Black students and their parents. The We Rise Together initiative and the FACES report speaks to changing the experiences of Black youth in the school system. This is just one change.  

Sharon Douglas & David Green
We Rise Together ​Community Advisory Comittee Co-Chairs
Peel District School Board
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