Posted on September 28, 2005

Toronto Board Considering School for Black Youth, Sept. 15

A published report says the Toronto District School Board’s new equity expert is looking at establishing a black-only school in the city, as a way of combating a high dropout rate and problems with suspensions.

Lloyd McKell, the new executive officer of student and community equity for the board, told the Toronto Star that city schools don’t do enough to make students of all backgrounds feel valued.

McKell told the Star a black-focused pilot school would be helpful for at-risk pupils, offering more black teachers, an Afro-centric curriculum and a more nurturing environment.

The school board confirmed that it is looking at the idea.

“I think we’re talking about the possibility of a school that would have black-focussed programs — but they’d be available to any student who wanted to attend them,” board chair Sheila Ward told CTV News Toronto.

Ward insists the board needs to do more to prevent at-risk students from dropping out. And since the Safe Schools Act was introduced five years ago, more than 1,000 kids under the age of seven have been suspended. The majority of those suspensions are African-Canadian youth.

Ward says that of the suspension hearings she has attended, 98 per cent involved students of colour. “That says to me — there’s some kind of a problem.”

McKell told CTV News he didn’t want to comment directly on the proposal.

“I’m not going to speculate on what kind of a model we develop,” he said Wednesday. “We do know that we are looking at the particular needs of students who have come forth to us and tell us that they need some adjustments in the way we deliver education.”

Ward says a model for the school has been developed over the past summer. “Black students have told us they have had particular needs to be engaged in our schools that makes them feel a true part of our system.”