Debate on black-focused school in T.O. gets heated
Published Friday, November 9, 2007 2:02PM EST
A meeting to discuss a proposed black-focused school in Toronto got heated at times, with supporters saying the idea would curb dropout rates, while opponents argued it would segregate students.
One mother of four strongly against the concept was escorted out of the meeting at North Albion Collegiate on Thursday night after an outburst.
"We don't have to go back to segregation," she shouted. "Come up with something else. The kids are failing school, but come up with something else."
The 100 or so parents and students who attended the session were divided into groups of eight to 10 to discuss the approach. It appeared most support the concept.
"I say 'let's try something new,' because what's happened before doesn't work," one speaker said, drawing loud applause.
According to Toronto District School Board figures, by age 16, more than half of black male teens at public schools haven't earned the 16 credits required by the end of Grade 10, the Toronto Star reports.
Some parents say an "African-centred alternative school" with black teachers and role models is needed to help black youths graduate and succeed.
"The curriculum itself needs to address and look at areas that promote and teach our children about their culture and their history that has never been granted," Tracy Cato, a mother of three, said at the meeting.
"This is Canada -- they have to know different nationalities, but I think they should have a school geared for black kids," said a woman named Tina.
Those opposed, however, say such a school is a large step backward.
"It's been 50 years now since the end of segregation in the United States. We don't want to go that way," said Abdurahman Jibril, a father of three.
The school board's proposal calls for an African-centred school from junior kindergarten to Grade 8 that would have more black teachers, mentors and a stronger focus on students' heritage.
The school would teach the Ontario curriculum, but parents have asked that it emphasize leadership and prepare students for university, as well as have an "Africentric" focus, the Star reports.
Controversial idea debated before
Black-focused schools have long been a controversial issue in Ontario. When the idea was raised in Toronto two years ago, it caused an uproar.
Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said an African-centred school differs from the Conservative election pledge for publicly funded faith-based schools.
"That had nothing to do with student achievement. What the Toronto board is trying to do, to their credit, is find ways of helping students who are not achieving to achieve better, so I think they're are two separate debates," Wynne said.
Earlier this week, Premier Dalton McGuinty said he was "not personally comfortable" with the concept of a black-focused school.
"I think our share of responsibility, particularly in this magnificent diverse society that we enjoy, is to look for ways to bring people together," he said.
Another public meeting is being held on Monday at 7 p.m. at Northview Heights Secondary School, at Finch Avenue and Bathurst Street.
School board staff are preparing a report on the feedback, which is expected to be released later this month.
With a report from CTV's Naomi Parness