Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism in Education

Jillian Enright

Louis Riel School Division Hires Divisional Principal of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism in Education

Creating welcoming classrooms, schools, and communities

Possibilities

This morning I learned that Louis Riel school division in Manitoba has created a brand new position, Divisional Principal of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Services.

I also learned that the person hired into the position, Michelle Jean-Paul, is an intelligent, highly qualified black woman who is working on a PhD in equity policy. She has worked as an educator, a community advocate, and has a Masters of Education.

(I don’t know her personally, and have no affiliation with the school division or with this person — but I heard her interview on CBC this morning, and I like her already).

Empty proclamations

Principal of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Services should be a position in every single division in every single province and territory.

All we get here in Manitoba is an empty proclamation once a year, declaring February “Inclusive Education month”, followed by… absolutely nothing. No action, no change, no new policy, and definitely no new funding dedicated to inclusive education.

Inclusion (in)action

In fact, our Minister of Education was so silent and inactive after posting an image of a proclamation on social media and doing nothing else, that I took the liberty of doing his job for him (you’re welcome, Cliff).

I polled local students with disabilities and their families to find out what true inclusion would look like in their classrooms and schools, and to dive further into what inclusion really means on a practical level. Here’s what they told me.

Benefits of inclusion

The thing that politicians — especially our Minister of Education, who has absolutely zero experience actually working in education — and other policy-makers fail to recognize is that inclusive schools and classrooms are beneficial to all students, not just neurodivergent and disabled students.

It can be done

After making empty declarations, it seems that politicians are willing to say that inclusion would be a good thing (they pretend it already exists, but by and large, it does not yet), but that’s about all they’re willing to do.

Even if they were willing to throw money at the problem, it seems they don’t actually know how to create truly inclusive classrooms and schools. Don’t worry, Cliff, I got you covered there too:

I am also confident that LRSD’s new Principal of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Services will have many ideas for change moving forward. I very much look forward to following and learning from her work.

My wish

I wish this new Principal of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Services position were for the entire province, or that it were a position created in every single division, not just one.

I wish there were more consistency across the various school boards in how schools are run, so that education were more equitable in every single neighbourhood and community — not just those that get lucky and have good superintendents, or the divisions located in affluent communities, resulting in better funding through property taxes.

To be totally honest, we all know this position was only created after the school division had two different teachers caught making racist comments in their classrooms — and those are just the two who were caught, thanks to students who called out and filmed these teachers behaving badly.

Cynicism aside, this does provide an opportunity for Michelle Jean-Paul — a black woman, community advocate, and expert in inclusive education — to effect change in her division and beyond. I am hopeful other divisions will take notice and follow suit.

I would expect (but am much less hopeful) our Minister of Education to require this position to be created, and to provide funding for divisions to hire more diverse people in inclusion and anti-racism senior-level positions.

This would only happen if there were further public outrage and political pressure on our Minister of Education, so parents, let’s get on this.

Write to Minister Cliff Cullen: write him letters, emails, send messages through social media, and let him know Manitoba parents care about diverse, equitable, anti-racist, inclusive education. That is likely the only way it will happen.

C’mon, a little activism will keep us warm.

© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity Manitoba

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Neurodivergent. 20+ years social work and psychology experience. I write about mental health, neurodiversity, advocacy, education, and parenting. Founder of Neurodiversity MB. CYW, BA Psychology.

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