This week the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) in Winnipeg put an end to the school resource officer (SRO) program, which had a police officer working across the division’s 40 schools since 2016.
Feedback from staff, students and families, including BIPOC students said they felt uneasy with the presence of an officer. It led the school division to use the money for the SRO program on a new diversity and anti-racism initiative.
LRSD priorities include implementing a curricula review emphasizing anti-racism and decolonization and adding an anti-racism education office to address issues of systemic racism among others.
“That over-arching policy will guide actions in many areas starting with professional learning. We really need to develop a curriculum for staff that focuses on the issues and focuses on anti-racism, decolonization,” said LRSD superintendent Christian Michalik.
They are also working with Equity Matters, a coalition of over 70 Indigenous and racialized/newcomer organizations that want to see equity in education, on areas to be improved.
One such organization is the Community Education Development Association (CEDA), which serves students and families, teachers and school administration in Winnipeg.
“Putting in place an office and representative that would oversee issues of equity, hiring practises to look towards again raising that number of specifically Indigenous teachers,” said Jordan Bighorn, co-director of CEDA.
“Just from a curriculum standpoint things that continue to bring in other voices, other authors, other historical narratives that accurately represent Indigenous history and then from a BIPOC standpoint, again at levels of decision making at the board and otherwise, how the community can have its voice better represented by folks that are present at those tables.”
LRSD will also be building off of a four-year program started in 2019 called the multi-year strategic plan, a similar strategy aimed at addressing systemic racism in a proactive way.
“When we look at the data, when we dissect the data we’re seeing outcomes that tell us that we need to do better by students who identify as BIPOC, students that come from communities of poverty and when you combine poverty and identity the reality that poverty in Winnipeg and our part of Winnipeg is racialized. Again it’s another example of what I mean by systemic racism and what needs to be addressed.”
Latest school numbers from 2019 show 13 per cent of LRSD students identified as Indigenous while 695 of roughly 2,000 staff responded to a survey with 21 per cent identifying as BIPOC and 15 per cent identifying as Indigenous.
Last year the school division released a unique version of the game Minecraft to show Anishinaabe culture to students as one way to promote diversity and inclusion.