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School district hosts presentation aimed at improving equity and inclusion

By Hannah Scott

Published 2:22 PST, Fri January 13, 2023

Last Updated: 3:06 PST, Fri January 13, 2023

In December, the Richmond School District hosted a presentation called “The Other People” at Richmond secondary, introducing students to the stories of people of different faiths and who belong to Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) communities.

Through a partnership with the Foundation for a Path Forward, Grade 11 and 12 students were invited to interact with the presenters and ask them questions about faith, hate, and racism.

“The district’s strategic priority of equity and inclusion is a commitment towards ensuring our schools are places that are welcoming to all,” says Navshina Savory, the district’s administrator for equity, inclusion, and Indigenous success. “Our staff and student diversity is a strength that we are trying to highlight and honour.”

Savory emphasizes the importance of facilitating presentations like this, to help students see shared humanity as well as increasing their understanding of others.

“(The presentation enabled) students to hear stories and ask questions, thereby helping to dismantle the ‘us versus them’ divide that leads to prejudice, exclusion, and marginalization,” says Savory. “Experienced, articulate, and authentic voices are important for our students to experience.”

Along with representing different Richmond community members, the presenters of “The Other People” bring real life experience and their visit is free to schools.

When it comes to equity and inclusion, Savory explains, it is the district’s mission “to ensure that all of our students, families, and staff feel welcomed, are treated respectfully, and have a sense of belonging.”

“We hope to achieve this by actively addressing unconscious bias, privilege, systemic discrimination, and marginalization based on factors such as ability, colour, cultural identity, gender, gender identity, Indigeneity, political beliefs, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status,” says Savory.

Actions taken by the district include making Indigenous land acknowledgements during gatherings; providing equity, diversity, and inclusion school calendars to all schools; encouraging school murals that showcase Indigenous art; and organizing professional development opportunities for staff to engage in anti-racism, multi-faith, and Truth and Reconciliation discussions.

In addition, “Parents (have the) opportunity to engage in a webinar to critically think about bias, stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. The webinar is designed to raise equity (and) consciousness and highlight the bias we all have, and to better understand how we can use this awareness to create a safe, caring, and inclusive environment promoting dignity and respect for all,” says Savory.

The district has also developed a new Canadian Black History 12 course, which counts for four credits towards graduation.

“This is a locally developed course that was approved at the last board meeting. The course was developed in-house with myself, teachers, and our teacher consultant for equity and inclusion,” says Savory. “We are also going to promote the offering of a Ministry-developed Asian Studies course which similarly provides students Social Studies course credit towards graduation.”

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