Archived email to the community
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
At the JICS Lab School, we celebrate our differences and similarities, and we are intentional about creating and supporting a diverse community. To us, learning among individuals who share divergent life stories and appreciating their respective cultures and experiences, is an invaluable aspect of a true education. Nurturing a respectful and inclusive school culture means paying close attention to individual experiences, our curriculum, admission work, our hirings, and our daily lives at the JICS Lab School.
The reason for this email is to share with parents that an act of racist vandalism occurred within the school building. A giant poster of Serena Williams, beautifully made by former Grade 6 students as part of a series of Black History Month posters of Black icons, with the inscription “Serena inspires Black children to be great tennis players” had the word Black scratched off. We do not know who or when this took place but as soon as a teacher noticed the vandalized text, the text portion was removed. It has since been replaced with a restored copy.
This event is felt personally, and in different ways by our staff and this helps us to understand that it will be felt differently by our students and parent community. We recognize that there are myriad feelings being experienced by Black staff - an increased sense of vulnerability and reactions of sadness, insecurity, anger, and grief and it is important they know our commitment to addressing all forms of racism and discrimination.
Teachers and staff members are engaged in courageous conversations about this act of racism that help us all to understand how racism and systemic racism exist within the JICS Lab School. We are trying to create brave spaces for the courageous conversations to continue, and to welcome input from our community members on how we can best meet everyone’s needs to continue this critical work. It is our responsibility to stand up and do whatever it takes to end oppression of all kinds.
Our focus is not on trying to identify who defaced the poster text or why. We don’t know what the individual’s intent was, but we do know the impact was hurtful and extremely upsetting. We also do not know if children noticed the text before it was removed. We are working to help the children feel safe and to learn how to be anti-racist. The teachers shared ways to sensitively introduce the information to the children. Some have designed lessons that have every child identify a special part of their identity and imagine what it would feel like to see that word scratched off. Many of these lessons have already begun in the classrooms and your child’s teacher will share more details with you.
The JICS Lab School is committed to equity and inclusion, and we acknowledge the importance of pro-actively and re-actively addressing anti-Black racism and all forms of racism/discrimination in developmentally appropriate ways with the children throughout the year. As we continue to serve our students, this recent act is a critical reminder of the urgency to remain focused and committed to the changes that need to happen for our students and families.
We know that we often get things wrong. The teachers of colour have been patient, trusting, and generous with their peers. Moving forward, we know we need to hear and deeply listen to the voices of our students, parent community and staff, and make sure our diversity and equity efforts are informed by these voices. We invite you to reach out and inform us about your experiences, thoughts, concerns, suggestions.