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Published on January 6, 2023.

By: Lavanya Kathirgamanathan

During the 19th century, governments in Ontario and Nova Scotia implemented “legally segregated common schools,” which meant Black and white students were separated in the elementary school system. In Ontario, school trustees created separate schools for Black children in the southwestern part of Ontario.

The Common Schools Act was a piece of legislation that governed education in Ontario during the 1840s and 1850s. The A Separate Schools Clause was amended in 1850, and it called for legislation to separate Black children—as well as Protestant and Catholic students—into their own segregated institutions.

Even though Black students were constantly rejected from predominantly white schools, parents strongly opposed segregated schools. This system was flawed from the beginning— some regions did not offer separate schools for Black students while the legislation was implemented, and the local public schools that were a part of these families’ neighbourhoods rejected their registration.

Not only was racial segregation a problem in elementary schools, but it also became an issue in post-secondary education. McGill University and the University of Toronto admitted Black students at very low rates prior to the American Civil War. Leonard Braithwaite, a Liberal member of parliament and elected in 1963, who was Ontario’s first Black MPP, cancelled the Separate Schools Clause two years into his political career in 1965.

As time progressed, people of colour took charge within the school system, which meant less anti-Black policy and fewer white politicians and decision-makers restricting the BIPOC community from speaking their voice.

The Toronto District School Board established a safe space for Black students to join various programs to learn, achieve, and educate themselves for the future. This was implemented in honour of supporting Black students to gain new experiences and help them recognize that there are safe spaces within the school system that they can attend.

Listed below are programs offered:

Black Student Success and Excellence / BSSE INITIATIVE

This initiative encourages school leaders and educators to be aware of and acknowledge issues of common anti-Black racism within schools. This initiative helps raise providers’ awareness about race within a learning environment and help their critical consciousness.

Black Girls’ Book Club

The Black Girls’ Book Club is focused on celebrating Black writers and voices. This is a place where students from grades nine to 12 explore their creative side by reading new stories and listening to ideas. It is also an opportunity to make new friends and share a common interest.

Black Student Summer Leadership Program

The Black Student Summer Leadership Program supports Black students’ future careers. This guide allows Black students to develop social and professional networks to jumpstart their careers. In particular, the leadership program helps educate the underrepresentation of Black people in careers and how there are a lot of possibilities. Students who participate in this program are also paid for contributing to the program.

Youth Participatory Action Research

The Youth Participatory Action Research program helps Black students research community-based projects and engage in social change. This program puts students in groups to discuss their personal experiences in regard to the school system and the community they grew up in. This is also a place where students can reflect on and discuss the systemic barriers and forms of oppression within schools and their communities.

If you would like to sign up for any of these programs or want to gain more insight, contact cebsa@tdsb.on.ca to stay in touch!

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