Equity and Anti-Racism

Introduction

The Renfrew County District School Board (RCDSB) has a strong commitment to human rights, equity and inclusion for all students, staff and school community members and partners.  We want everyone who learns, works, partners with or volunteers in RCDSB to feel safe, comfortable and accepted.  Embedded in the RCDSB Strategic Plan 2021-2025 is our commitment to prioritize the Empowerment of Equity and Well-Being by:

Recognizing and working to eliminate  systemic barriers affecting students, staff and school communities

  • Ensuring equitable access to programs and services across the system

  • Integrating Indigenous ways of teaching, learning, knowing and living into our educational practices

  • Seeking out and delivering best practices and promising opportunities that support mental health and well being 

The RCDSB is committed to maintaining alignment with the Ministry of Education’s Equity & Inclusion Strategy, the Ontario Education Equity Action Plan, and the Ministry of Education’s Policy/Program Memorandum 119.  

In addition, the RCDSB upholds the principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We acknowledge that the land on which our school and District buildings are situated is the traditional, unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin people.  We also recognize the enduring presence of all First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples on the land on which we gather today.

Student Census Project 2021-2022
The Renfrew County District School Board is committed to equity, inclusion and ensuring everyone feels a strong sense of belonging. To help understand student identity and lived experience our district will be conducting our first-ever student census in 2021-2022.

The voluntary and confidential RCDSB Student Census will ask a series of questions around identity and demographics. The survey is guided by the Ministry of Education and is in compliance with Ontario’s Anti-Racism Data Standards, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and all relevant legislative requirements set out in the Education ActMFIPPA , the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.   The Ontario Human Rights Commission permits and encourages the collection and analysis of identity data for the purposes of: identifying and removing systemic barriers; preventing discrimination; and promoting equity and inclusivity. 

The RCDSB will be collecting this data in three waves: 

  • Grades 4-8 - November/December 2021

  • Grades 9-12 - February/March 2022

  • Kindergarten to Grade 3 - Families will be invited to provide the data in April/May 2022

Please see here for a template of the Grade 4-12 survey questions.

FAQs

Why do we need this survey?

Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan encourages School Boards to collect student identity-based data to identify potential barriers or gaps and determine how to eliminate discriminatory biases in our classes and schools as outlined in the Ontario Education Equity Action Plan.

School boards across the province are completing a Census with their school communities in order to better understand the needs of student populations and school communities. The Census will gather demographic data (statistical information) to help us better understand the communities we serve.

Several school boards have already completed their first Census, while other boards, like Renfrew County, are completing it this school year or next.

Why is RCDSB collecting these data?
RCDSB is committed to serving our students as best we can. To do this, we want to gain a clearer understanding of who our students are and our school communities.

Collecting identity-based information through the Student Census will help us to identify the groups of students being underserved so that we can develop and revise programs, strategies, policies and teaching practices, as well as allocate resources and supports to improve school environments and help every student succeed.

RCDSB looks forward to using the Student Census as an opportunity to honour our students’ voices and learn more about their school experiences in order to be responsive to their needs.
Who will complete the survey?
All students are being asked to complete the census. Students in Grades 4 to 12 will complete the survey online at school, including RCDSB Elementary Virtual School students. Families of students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be asked to complete the survey with their student(s) at home. School administrators will ensure that all students, including those attending alternative programs, receive an invitation to participate in the survey. 
Is the Student Census available for students with special education needs? 
Yes. All of the accommodations, supports and assistive technology necessary to ensure that every student has the opportunity to participate in the survey will be provided.
Is parental consent required before students complete the survey? 
Formal consent from families is not required. Legislation regarding participation of students in a Board-initiated survey intended for planning and programming purposes permits the collection of survey data. The survey is voluntary. Families can withdraw their child from participation in the survey by contacting their Principal
Is the Student Census available in languages other than English?
Yes. The survey for students will be available in the following top 10 languages as identified by school board enrolment data: Arabic, Cantonese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, and Urdu. 
What types of questions are included in the Student Census?
The Student Census asks questions about student identity that include languages, gender, sexual orientation, religion/creed/faith, ethnicity, race, nationality, disability and socio-economics. Perceptual questions relating to opportunities, sense of belonging, and well-being are also included. 

Students in Grades 4 to 12 will be supported by staff who have been provided with various resources such as mentor texts to support them in helping students to prepare for the language and concepts of the survey.

Why are we asking about masculinity/femininity?
Masculinity and femininity are common ways we describe another person’s gender expression, or how they externally present and convey their gender identity to others. Gender expression is one of the protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Since we are collecting demographic data based on human rights code protected grounds, this question is important to include. Along with, and separate from gender identity, it is critical to understand how gender expression is affecting students' experience at school, as research has shown that students who are read as gender non-conforming (i.e., who do not express gender like other people expect them to) report greater harassment and violence whether or not they are LGBTQ+. In other words, gender identity and sexual orientation do not necessarily predict gender-based harassment - gender expression does. This means that gender expression discrimination is an issue potentially experienced by a large proportion of RCDSB students. The question, as written with the seven-point scale, has been validated by the most recent research on gender expression. Retaining their format is the most rigorous way to ask about gender expression since masculinity and femininity each have a very wide range
Why are you asking questions about socio-economic status (such as how many TVs or bathrooms a student has in their home)?
The data collected through the census will help us learn more about RCDSB students – their backgrounds, experiences and needs. Questions around a student’s socio-economic status (family education, wealth etc.) help to provide a full picture of a student and have been validated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and were recommended for inclusion by the Ministry of Education. Further, measuring the socio-economic status of students can be directly related to student achievement. The Ministry also provided boards with guidelines on how to ask these important questions.
Does my child need to answer every question on the census?
The Student Census is voluntary. Students may choose to skip questions if they do not wish to provide answers, or they can choose not to participate at all. It is important to note that the higher the completion rate, the more reliable the information will be in helping us to identify and remove systemic barriers and bias, and provide better services to our students and communities. 
Can I view a copy of the Student Census before my child participates?
Yes click here as copies of the census are available for review.
What gives the school board the right to collect this information?
Collection of identity-based data is supported by Canada’s human rights legislative framework, including the Canadian Human Rights Act, The Ontario Human Rights Code, and section 15(2) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Ontario Human Rights Commission permits and encourages the collection and analysis of identity data for the purposes of: identifying and removing systemic barriers; preventing discrimination; and promoting equity and inclusivity.
Is the Student Census anonymous?
The census is confidential but not anonymous. To ensure confidentiality, no directly identifying information (such as student name) will be required to be typed on the survey. As one of the main purposes of the survey is to identify and eliminate systemic barriers to student success, all surveys will include unique identifiers that will allow us to identify groups of students. No individual students will be identified. Students will log in using their secure Active Directory account.
How will responses be kept confidential and secure?
The census is confidential but not anonymous. We respect the privacy of our students and families. Data will be collected in a secure manner in accordance with applicable privacy legislation and best practices.

Student names will not appear on the survey. Each survey will include a unique survey ID. All data will be stored in a secure, confidential Canadian data base that will be accessed by authorized RCDSB research staff to identify and summarize board trends.

Reports will never single out or identify a student or family, and will only be reported in a summarized way, to provide understanding of school community needs.

Privacy requirements outlined in the Municipal freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) will be followed. MFIPPA is the provincial legislation that establishes responsibilities of school boards to protect personal information about individuals including students, that is collected, used, retained, disclosed and disposed of. The confidential database will only be accessed by research staff at the RCDSB for analysis and research purposes.
My student completed the survey. How do I see their responses?
The survey is confidential and all information collected is protected. As shared in earlier communication, we encourage families to discuss the questions with their student(s) to understand their responses.

How will the census data be used?

Once responses are processed and analyzed, the Renfrew County District School Board will produce a series of reports to help inform board and school decision-making for programs and instruction. Data reports or analysis will never single out a student. By law, the Renfrew County District School Board cannot reveal individualized information for any student who completes the census.
What do I do if I am having technical difficulties accessing the census?
If you are having difficulty logging in, or require more technical support, please contact your school Principal/Vice Principal.

Resources

RCDSB students in Grades 4 to 12 will complete the census during supervised class time and educators support students to ensure they understand the questions being asked. Families with students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will complete the census at home on behalf of their students. Below, you will find some helpful definitions and clarifications around identity, gender identity, race and ethnicity that may help you understand what the census is asking:
What is Identity?

What is Identity?

Your identity is who you are, the way you think about yourself, the way you are viewed by the world and the characteristics that define you.  It can also be considered a combination of personality traits, beliefs, values, physical attributes, looks and / or expressions, abilities that make a person or group.

Resources for educators and families:

What is Gender Identity?

Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense or feeling of being a woman, a man, both, neither or anywhere on the gender spectrum, which may or may not be the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth (e.g. male, female, intersex) It is different from and does not determine a person’s sexual orientation.

Important Terminology:

Transgender = People whose gender identity or gender expression does not align easily or at all with the M or F they were assigned at birth.

Two-Spirit = (An Indigenous person whose gender identity, spiritual identity, or sexual orientation includes masculine, feminine, or non-binary spirits)

Non-Binary = Non-Binary people identify with neither side of the man/boy/male or woman/girl/female binary.  Non-Binary people can be situated under the transgender umbrella

Gender-Fluid = People whose gender expression and/or gender identity don't park in any one place, or at least not for long.

How can we explore gender identity in our classrooms or at home through diverse books?

Grades K- 8: Parents/guardians looking for age-appropriate reading material for younger children who are transgender, gender expansive, or simply have a lot of questions, might think that their options are limited.

 Transgender Reading List for Children - PFLAG

Grades 9 -12: PFLAG is the extended family of the LGBTQ community. We're made up of LGBTQ individuals, family members and allies. Because together, we're stronger.

Transgender Reading List for Young Adults - PFLAG

Resources for educators and families:

GENDER: Your Guideby Lee Airton
What is Race?

People are often described as belonging to a certain “race” based upon how others see and behave toward them. These ideas about who belongs to what race are usually based on physical features such as skin colour. Ideas about race are often imposed on people by others in ways which can affect their life experiences and how they are treated. Society forms ideas of race based on geographic, historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors, as well as physical traits. Race is often confused with ethnicity, but there can often be several ethnicities within a racialized group.

 

Important Terminology:

Black - (African, Afro-Caribbean, African-Canadian descent)

East Asian - (Examples may include Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese descent)

Indigenous - (First Nations, Métis, Inuit descent)

Latino/Latina/Latinx - Latin American, South American, Central American, Hispanic descent. (Examples may include Mexican, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Honduran, etc.)

Middle Eastern - Arab, Persian, West Asian descent. (Examples may include Afghan, Egyptian, Iranian, Lebanese, Turkish, Kurdish, etc.)

South Asian - (Examples may include Indian (India), Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, IndoCaribbean, etc.

Southeast Asian - (Examples may include Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Indonesian, other Southeast Asian descent)

White - People belonging to any of various peoples with light coloured skin, usually of European descent. (Examples may include British, Italian, German, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, etc.)

Questions for discussion:

  •  Do you think about your race? How often?

  •  Are there situations, events, news, etc. that prompt you to think about your race?

  •  How do you envision the answers of your students to the previous two questions to be similar or different?

  •  Do you believe your students experience school (hallways, activities, classrooms, curriculum, discipline etc.) differently based on their racial background?

Resources for educators and families:

  •  How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell
What is Ethnicity?

Building upon the definition of race, ethnicity is often confused with race.  Unlike race, which specifically looks at your physical features, ethnicity zeroes in on your family's cultural, and ancestral heritage - like language, citizenship, traditions, and history. In other words, ethnic groups have a common identity, heritage, ancestry, or historical past, often with identifiable cultural, linguistic and/or religious characteristics. Ethnicity and race interact in complex ways that change over time dependent on the present day political and cultural context.

 

Questions for discussion:

  • If you know how you would you classify your race, and using the definitions above, what do you know about your own ethnic identity?

  • Do you feel like your racial identity and ethnic identity are similar? 

  • As educators, we can explore the interaction between ethnicity and race in the classroom by first examining our own complex relationship with these two categories of identity.

Resources for educators and families:

  • This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

 Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education by Özlem Sensoy & Robin DiAngelo

  

Staff Census Project 2020-2021 
 

In the Fall of 2020, the RCDSB launched the Workforce Census in order to gain detailed insight as to the cultural, social and demographic makeup of our workforce. The Workforce Census is part of our ongoing commitment to equity and inclusion and the results have allowed us to hear and learn a great deal. We have identified actions and strategies going forward that will help us to better meet the needs of our employees and our students.

In total, 1172 employees participated in the RCDSB Workforce Census, representing a 62% response rate. We want to thank all who participated and helped us achieve this high participation compared to other system-wide staff surveys in recent years. The reports will detail the results as well as the new strategies and initiatives being adopted in response to what we have learned about our workforce.

 

Methodology and Data Collection

 

Preliminary Infographic Report

Contact Information

Renald Cousineau, Superintendent of Education - Program Services, Indigenous Education, Equity & Anti-Racism

613-735-0151 x. 3307

Amy Johnson, System Principal of Equity & Anti-Racism

613-735-0151 x. 3310