Following the recent publicised racist incidents at our school, many have expressed outrage and have asked that action be taken. We want to thank the school for reacting swiftly to the recent events. We understand the necessity for consequences for the horrendous actions. We would like to emphasise, however, that any child is the product of the cultural community at school and outside of it and it is important for all to consider the following points:
- It has been made clear to the community that the students involved in the Instagram video would receive the strictest consequences. We are certain that their action is only the tip of an iceberg. The behaviours of these children are not anomalies or singular aberrations and this should be an opportunity to enact cultural change in the school community.
- What level of anti-racist education did these children receive at school? The racist attitudes of these children should have been flagged by the adults in their lives, including those at school. They happened to be caught, but there are those with a similar mindset who remain at school. Their exclusion, without education for the boys themselves or their peers, is not useful. There needs to be opportunities for introspection and growth by the staff and student body. Consequences are needed but the urgency lies in the focus on education so that our students who are all members of our communities and someone’s precious child, are not short-changed because of a vacuum in their education.
- The current discourse circulating at school seems to put the onus on the students misbehaving. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring that teachers receive training to obtain the tools to keep our diverse children safe at school, educated agents of change, ready for a complex world. We reiterate that the educators in the school need self-reflection too.
- How much are we highlighting anti-racist champions? Students and teachers? Projects and pedagogies? If we are to create a modelling environment, we need to focus on the students, staff, and parents who are working on anti-racism. Make the development of an anti-racist agenda at our school a priority.
- Cultural change is a long and arduous task and the school has to commence this work by setting up specific policies on antiracism and a transparent disciplinary process. These should be required reading by students, parents and staff. This will ensure objective action by the school after a clear understanding by students, parents and staff of what is acceptable behaviour. Further work must be done to ensure a well- rounded culturally sensitive curriculum that raises the diverse student body, enabling everyone to feel that they are a valued part of the school body.
Our suggestion for a productive disciplinary process includes warnings for first offences and dependent on the severity of the racist act, suspension with remedial antiracist education for more serious offences as transpired recently, then ultimately exclusion after these other methods have been exhausted.
Let our focus be proactive, and if the time to be reactive comes, may it be through a fair and transparent process with the aim of rehabilitation.