Almost 90 per cent of Ontario principals identify as white, says a new survey of schools that also found the pandemic in part hampered anti-racism initiatives in boards across the province.
For the first time, the 2021-22 report by research and advocacy group People for Education asked principals about their race.
It found that of the almost 1,000 surveyed, 86.7 per cent identify as white, followed by 5.2 per cent who identify as Black, 3 per cent South Asian, 2.7 per cent East Asian, 2.3 per cent Indigenous and 1.9 per cent Middle Eastern, with Latino/Latina/Latinx and Southeast Asian each at less than one per cent.
“The numbers are so stark,” said Annie Kidder, the group’s executive director. “It definitely points to a problem in the system when you are thinking of all the results where race comes into play and how important it is that we work harder to have a system where the staff, all the staff, are reflective of the students.”
The report notes that “the homogenous racial profile of school principals is in contrast to Ontario’s population, which comprises more than half of Canada’s ‘visible minority’ population.”
Ontario “needs, and is somewhat working towards, a more representative staff,” Kidder added. “We have a long way to go.”
At the senior level, the province has removed the requirement that a director of education must be a teacher, saying that would open up a more diverse pool of candidates.
THE MOST POWERFUL SALE & AFFILIATE PLATFORM AVAILABLE!
There's no credit card required! No fees ever.Create Your Free Account Now!
Education Minister Stephen Lecce has introduced several measures to address systemic racism in the system, including a ban on most suspensions for the youngest students as well as ending academic streaming, two areas that have negatively impacted Black, Indigenous and low-income youth in particular.
Kidder said that board improvement plans are supposed to focus on equity and anti-racism, and those efforts seem to have slowed down “and it’s not just the pandemic.”
Almost all schools surveyed — 94 per cent — provide anti-racism and equity professional development for teachers and staff, though just 37 per cent work with community organizations to do so — something that is seen as crucial.
However, just 64 per cent of boards collect race-based or demographic data, the survey found, with 29 per cent unsure and seven saying they don’t.
Principals said that since the pandemic and lockdowns began in March 2020, “school closures and COVID interruptions have greatly impacted the depth of learning and conversation around racism,” the report says. “Greater continuity would certainly be beneficial to these efforts.”
In addition, “there are several challenges in implementing anti-racism strategies in Ontario’s publicly funded schools,” the report also says. “While some principals mentioned that having a dedicated staff member focused on anti-racism was helpful, others explained why this approach was not enough.”
One elementary principal said “it can’t be one or two people leading the charge and everyone else is indifferent.”
Kidder said more resources are needed.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe