Two former SD73 students helped district update anti-racism policy, implement more diverse curriculum

Students spur SD73 change

Thanks to the bold efforts of two former students, the Kamloops-Thompson school district has implemented new anti-racism policies and resources that include perspectives from people of colour.

According to SD73, the work to expand curriculum and update policy was done in response to a petition launched in 2020 by Mary Falade, a third-year University of British Columbia student.

“When we decided to approach the school district, it was very intimidating. Even I was somewhat hesitant because I wasn’t sure anything would come from it,” Falade said in an interview with Castanet Kamloops.

“It’s just really great to see that making the decision to be bold and to speak out can actually have these sorts of impacts.”

The petition, aimed at asking the district to include more perspectives from people of colour in school curriculum, collected just over 1,000 signatures.

Falade, along with Joy Kwak, a current student at McGill University, founded Motion of Colour, a local youth-led anti racism organization.

Kwak said the two were invited to speak at a school district meeting at the beginning of this year, where they shared their experiences and were invited to review the policies.

They also sat on a working group that helped to develop the district’s anti-racism and human rights plan.

Based on recommendations from the working group, the district said it has revised its policies to better support people who experience racism and discrimination.

Kwak said creating policy that defines what discriminatory behaviour looks like, and what actions will be taken in response, sets a standard.

“[It] really makes it known to students and staff what is acceptable and what's not,” she said.

Training and professional development is also being provided to district staff.

According to Vessy Mochikas, director of instruction for the district, each school has received a kit with 20 books, novels and associated lesson plans that teachers can implement right away.

“We're really just trying to make it easy for educators to implement diversity and anti racism in the school,” Mochikas said.

“The benefit from that is that students get to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, and then students get to learn about different cultures, and have those rich conversations every day.”

Falade said school curriculum has been largely centred around white people in all subjects, and current occurrences and experiences of racism weren’t taught at all.

“By including POC [people of colour] representation, you are not only teaching white students to respect and appreciate POC, but are also teaching POC to respect and appreciate themselves,” Falade said.

Mochikas said the district is hoping to continue to work with Falade and Kwak, as well as other students.

She said the district is also asking for student nominations from each middle and secondary school to form an anti-racism leadership group.

“We'll talk to them about lived experience, what they see currently in schools, what we're missing and ways that we can improve,” she said.

“That’s the start of the work.”

Going forward, Falade said she hopes to stay in contact with the school district in the future, to try and help in any way she can.

She said she also has invited students from SD73 schools to join Motion of Colour, so youth voices can help to tackle issues outside of school, as well as inside of school.

She said she was inspired by the amount of support she received when putting forward the petition.

“That is definitely something that's going to keep me going in what I do with motion of colour and other anti racism efforts in the future,” Falade said.

“Just knowing that I'm not only doing this for myself, but I'm doing it for everybody else who also wants to see those changes, that there are people who appreciate this kind of work that's been done.”

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