Sidow Responds to Petition for More Black History and Experience Education

Posted On Thursday June 25, 2020

School District No. 73’s retiring superintendent is committed to addressing the issues raised in a petition calling for the District to be a space that welcomes and celebrates Black students and that teaches others to do the same.  

Alison Sidow has reached out to petition organizer Mary Falade, who has just completed her second year at UBC. Sidow said she acknowledged Falade’s leadership in creating the petition, and she agrees wholeheartedly with her statements. 

“As a Black woman and the leader of SD73, it is my honour to begin a conversation about the contributions and experiences of Black lives in Canadian society,” Sidow said. “As Mary points out in the petition, Black history and experiences have not been directly taught in our schools and this is both a factor in and a result of institutionalized racism that has excluded Black voices.”

Sidow is retiring on August 31, 2020, and she is ending her career in education with the same passion for equity she started with.  Thirty years ago, as an elementary school teacher in the Bulkley Valley, she saw the systemic racism that prevented equitable educational outcomes for Indigenous students.  

“Throughout my career I have worked to ensure students see themselves reflected in their learning and to challenge the racial biases that stigmatize and marginalize children,” she said.

Falade, a 2018 graduate of NorKam Senior Secondary, posted the petition to change.org earlier this week. In it, she addresses Sidow directly and asks for the incorporation of Black authors/artists/actors in school resources; a mandate for anti-racism and inclusion education in schools as a standard; Black history in social studies classes and a discussion of how racism is a systemic issue.

The Board of Education has requested that work begin this summer to develop a procedure to accompany the existing policy on Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights to address racism assertively.  Also, in consultation with Director of Inclusion, Vessy Mochikas, and Falade, SD73 will form a working group of students and families of Black ancestry to review the lived experience of students of colour so that Black history and experience can be included in the curriculum.

“This is the work we can do as a school district,” said Kathleen Karpuk, Chair of the Board of Education. “We are impressed by the strength of the young people such as Mary who are challenging us and educating us about racism and the need for a more inclusive curriculum.”

“These are real and valid concerns,” said Sidow. “These steps will help us begin to address racism that continues to affect how we look at those who are 'different' than ourselves.”

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