Public board condemns all use of ‘N-word’
The Greater Essex County School Board (GECDSB) has drafted a directive to staff and issued a letter to families aimed at curbing racism, harassment and bullying in school.
“No student should be harmed by words or actions of others at school,” the letter posted electronically on March 10 reads. “Students or parents/guardians who hear or learn about hateful or discriminatory acts or language should report it to the school principal, vice-principal or another staff member right away.”
The letter stipulates discrimination, harassment and bullying, proliferation of hate, the use of the N-word, the use of hateful slurs or epithets and reprisal for trying to have an incident addressed will not be tolerated.
“Students are not allowed to say, write or read out any version of the N-word (including with the “a” ending) and are not allowed to ask for a "pass” from Black students to use the N-word,” the letter reads.
It further outlines that staff are not allowed to say or read out loud the N-word.
Director of education Erin Kelly says they have been working for the last 18 months on anti-Black racism initiatives.
“There are incidents of racism, it does exist,” Kelly told CTV News Monday. “Its something we all need to be responsible for.”
The board has now issued a directive to staff about these issues, but Kelly says they also wanted GECDSB families to be aware of it and to play a role in making schools more inclusive.
Kelly is hopeful families will have discussions with their children about acceptable language and behaviour in schools.
“There’s a combination of relief and disappointment,” said Natalie Delia Deckard, the director of the Black Studies Institute at the University of Windsor.
Deckard said she is relieved GECDSB took action on the complaints coming from Black students and their families.
“White students rarely use (the N-word) anyway and the white students that do use it are doing so in a particular context. They will be disciplined. Fantastic! White staff and faculty will not use it anymore, they have clarity,” said Deckard.
But Deckard is disappointed the board doesn’t appear to be willing to take into account the Black students who are re-claiming the N-word to use within their own peer groups in a non-derogatory form.
She likens it how people use words like ‘honey’ or ‘baby’ to speak to a close friend or loved one.
“But if I go to the bank and the manager comes out and says ‘Hey baby, how are you doing?’ I’m going to be upset,” said Deckard. “Words have context and that context is shaped by the speaker and the receiver. The idea that some people in-group have a preferred vocabulary that is exclusionary outside of that group we accept in all of these different contexts.”
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