The Delta School District is taking steps to create a more inclusive environment following a recent survey that showed more than half of staff members had witnessed or experience racism at work.
Last fall, the district’s anti-racism committee conducted a survey of staff to gather baseline data and guide anti-racism efforts in support of the district’s Vision 2030.
Unveiled on Oct. 29, 2021, Vision 2030 lays out the mission (“to inspire and nurture thriving future-ready learners”), vision (“Delta School District is an innovative, inclusive community where all learners belong and everyone soars”) and values (compassion, responsibility, integrity, creativity, diversity and resilience) that will guide staff and school board decision-making over the next decade.
Of the 430 staff members who responded to the survey, more than half shared that they had witnessed or directly experienced racism within the district.
Respondents described interactions with students, parents and colleagues where they noticed others using stereotypes about race, ethnicity or culture, according to a press release that noted racism often shows itself via language, jokes, assumptions and beliefs that result in members of the school community being excluded.
“Many respondents also identified structural or systemic concerns that are deeply embedded and not always readily visible or conscious that lead to or prolong the unfair treatment of Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour,” the district said in a press release.
Examples cited include a lack of diversity within the curriculum, in leadership positions, policies and procedures, learning resources, at school concerts and assemblies, and in the acknowledgment of important dates.
The findings and personal stories shared in the survey broadly speaking highlighted certain themes, such as “when people do not feel safe at work, they cannot bring their full skills and gifts to their work,” “the more self-aware we can be, the more we can contribute to a safe and inclusive environment,” and “being anti-racist means educating ourselves and challenging ourselves to take action against racist systems, structures and behaviours,” according to the release.
“The role of education in building intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect is vital in advancing the journey of reconciliation, and addressing and eliminating racism,” anti-racism committee co-chairs Satnam Chahal, Nancy Gordon and Brooke Moore said in a joint statement.
“We believe there is a need for action on all fronts — from addressing the ways in which racial bias makes its way into everyday interactions and understanding how best to intervene when witnessing racism, to thinking carefully about how it is reflected in our systems and structures.
“If we want every student and staff member in Delta to feel valued, seen and heard, we know that it’s not enough to be ‘not racist’; we must proactively strive to be anti-racist. The survey results have been extremely helpful in identifying areas where the district needs to deliberately focus time and attention in order to move forward.”
This school year, anti-racism committee teams in each of Delta’s seven secondary schools are conducting a similar survey for students and working on anti-racism initiatives including a project launched in 2021 and funded through a $10,000 BC Multiculturalism Grant that aims to engage students in advocacy against racism in their schools. One of the key deliverables from this project is an educational video that will be used to support learning throughout the district.
As well, the district, in consultation with the anti-racism committee, has committed to a number of actions including educating all staff on the district’s recently approved anti-racism procedure and their duty to uphold it, and helping staff members learn more about anti-racism. A working group of Delta educators developed a website (deltalearns.ca/antiracism) last year full of resources to help their colleagues and anyone else learn more.
Other actions the district is committing to include recognizing significant days, months and cultural celebrations; supporting work sites in becoming more anti-racist; and requiring that future learning resource purchases are considered through an anti-racist lens, including prioritizing content created by those who identify as Indigenous, Black and People of Colour.