In an effort to prevent incidents of racism, the Parents of Black Children (PoBC) launched a new online tool for educators and school staff across Canada on March 2, 2021. The tool will allow PoBC to track incidents involving anti-Black racism perpetuated against students and employees in school compounds. The idea is to document stories of racism that often go unnoticed, or are swept under the rug by school authorities. The new system will foster more transparency and accountability, and enable data-driven policy change.
Parents of Black Children (PoBC) is a nonprofit advocacy group established in 2019 to support and address the systemic barriers that impact the experience of Black students and their families within the education system.
It is volunteer-based and comprises 12 members, most of whom are mothers. PoBC provides services to Ontario-based families as well as anyone living outside the region through online sessions and has also been approached by educators from the United States who are facing similar challenges. “We provide parents with the information about how the school system works and help them mitigate the risk of racism,” says co-founder and a board member of PoBC, Claudette Rutherford. “But even if they are aware of racism, how can parents advocate for their children? PoBC teaches them advocacy skills.”
Speaking about the new initiative, Claudette Rutherford points out, “Combating anti-Black racism should be prioritized immediately. Research shows that our children have been hurting for decades despite an increase in reported incidents. At what point do we put a stop to it and convince parents that we are here to protect their children?” explains Rutherford.
Rutherford says there was a need to design the tool because school boards could not do it themselves. She also says most educators keep tight-lipped about these stories because they are too afraid to speak up. “Many educators reach out to tell us stories about racism but they’re not too confident in sharing them with their supervisors, or may have already reported the incidents but didn’t get to see justice prevail,” says Rutherford.
As a teacher who has been teaching for almost two decades herself, Rutherford confirms that she has been on the receiving end of racism and has seen anti-Black racism play out in the school system. This includes students as well as staff. “It’s very obvious to educators that protecting Black children could potentially be career-limiting for them, so as educators and as a system, it’s time for us to have a serious conversation about this issue,” Rutherford adds.
The online tool, tested by educators and refined before its launch date, can be used anonymously. This hopefully empowers teachers and staff to protect their children without the fear of a backlash. “We know about the fear of potential backlash when staffers report anti-Black incidents, this is why the tool collects information anonymously and is completely independent of unions and boards.” With that said, PoBC wants more people to speak out against anti-Black incidents with their colleagues, teachers, unions, and their supervisory offices. “It is also important to continue using the existing reporting tools implemented by school boards and unions. The new online tool does not replace existing systems in place, it merely complements them,” Rutherford states.
The tool collects the following types of data:
- Racism perpetuated towards teachers by colleagues, parents, or school staff
- Racism perpetuated by teachers towards students or parent
- Reprisals that target educators who speak out against anti-Black racism
PoBC is currently working with a research expert to continue collecting and analyzing the data, and share the results.
Explaining how the data will be used and released, Rutherford says, “We will be very careful and responsible with how the data is being collected, analyzed, and shared.”
Once the data has been processed by the system, PoBC will approach school boards with the findings so they can take appropriate action. In addition, the public will be informed regularly about the reports.
Rutherford also says that the PoBC has been in communication with the Ontario Ministry of Education, governing bodies, unions, and other relevant bodies about the online tool. PoBC would like to see more provinces use this type of tool and make it mandatory for an independent body outside the school system to process the data.
Below is a list of their services:
(1) The United Parents Program: offers online capacity-building workshops on issues related to racial disparity faced by Black children. These sessions are intended to empower parents with information about navigating the system.
(2) System Navigation Tools: Two types of tools are available on the website. The first tool supports families by attending meetings and guiding them about challenges they may be facing with the school system. The second tool is a children’s aid navigator that provides social service support for parents who need them.
(3) Parent Mentorship Program: A master class session where parents can learn about policies, how to better understand the school system, and how they can protect their children.
In addition to these programs, PoBC also has a COVID-19 relief program that provides free tutoring to children who are learning remotely or need academic support, and a mental health support program to provide a mental health expert to families who may need them.“We want educators to know that they can use this tool to share information anonymously,” Rutherford says.
To utilize the online tool anonymously, simply fill out the form at parentsofblackchildren.org