The Kamloops-Thompson school district plans to incorporate black history and experiences into its curriculum after receiving a petition from a former Kamloops student.
Mary Falade, a UBC student who graduated from NorKam senior secondary in 2018, started a change.org petition calling on the school district to be a space that welcomes and celebrates black students and teaches others to do the same.
The petition has gathered more than 600 signatures as of June 29.
In response, the district now plans to take a number of steps after Supt. Alison Sidow reached out to Falade.
The board of education is requesting the school district, in consultation with Falade, form a working group of students and families of black ancestry in order to incorporate black history and lived experiences in the curriculum.
The board also suggested work begin this summer to develop a procedure to accompany SD73’s existing policy on anti-discrimination and human rights to assertively address racism.
“We are impressed by the strength of the young people such as Mary, who are challenging us and educating us about racism and the need for a more inclusive curriculum,” board chair Kathleen Karpuk said in a release.
In her petition, Falade said black students attending various schools within the Kamloops-Thompson district have yet to be truly welcomed into educational spaces.
“We spend our time in school learning and fixating on the experiences of white Canadians without ever learning about ourselves,” she said in her petition, arguing that suggests the curriculum doesn’t consider black experiences as important contributions to education. She said it also reinforces prejudiced mindsets and behaviours in white students, teaching them they are to be valued over their black peers.
“Our childhoods and youth are crucial in determining the kind of people we grow up to be and the impact we will have on our society,” Falade said in her petition. “Education has the power to ensure we devote our futures to making Canada a home for everyone,”
Her suggestions to the district include incorporating black authors, artists and actors in school resources, mandating anti-racism and inclusion education in schools, incorporating black history in social studies classes and having discussions about how racism is a systemic issue.
Sidow, who is retiring at the end of August, said she wholeheartedly agreed with Falade’s statements.
“As a black woman and the leader of SD73, it is my honour to begin a conversation about the contributions and experiences of black lives in Canadian society,” Sidow said. “As Mary points out in the petition, black history and experiences have not been directly taught in our schools and this is both a factor in, and a result of, institutionalized racism that has excluded black voices.”
Falade wrote in an update on the petition page that she will be meeting with Sidow to discuss the next steps and hopes the petition encourages other school districts to take similar action.
“These are real and valid concerns,” Sidow said. “These steps will help us begin to address racism that continues to affect how we look at those who are ‘different’ than ourselves.”
The petition follows protests against racism in the U.S. and around the world, including in Kamloops, after the death of George Floyd, who was killed in May while being arrested by police in Minneapolis.