School Board Update
Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan: The New Requirement for Race-Based Data Collection
Date: September 12, 2017
On September 7, 2017, the Ministry of Education announced their three-year plan for education equity. The “Education Equity Action Plan” (Plan) will serve as a roadmap in the province’s effort to identify and eliminate systemic barriers to student success. Find out more in this FTR Now.
Overview of the Plan
The Plan contains four key initiatives designed to enhance:
- School and Classroom Practices
- Leadership, Governance and Human Resources Practices
- Data Collection, Integration and Reporting
- Organizational Culture Change.
The Ministry’s initiative on data collection has attracted a significant amount of attention. For the first time, school boards in Ontario are being required to collect identity-based data spanning Human Rights Code-protected grounds of race and ethnicity, to gender identity and socio-economic status. The province has stated that in order to address systemic racism, they must know who their students are and what their school experience looks like.
The province plans to implement their data collection initiative within the Plan’s first year (2017-2018). School boards will be expected to collect data on the following factors: race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and parental socio-economic status. Additionally, school boards will be expected to continue collecting data on student exceptionalities, immigration status, Indigenous status and first language.
Data collection can be sensitive and raise concerns about privacy and stigmatization – particularly among racialized individuals or those who self-identify with other protected grounds under the Code. Accordingly, the Ministry is encouraging school boards to engage in dialogue with parents, staff and community partners. The Ministry is hopeful that school boards will be able to promote the view that supporting equity requires evidence-informed decision making and a better understanding of local communities, which starts with data collection.
Given the provincial government’s recent focus on anti-racism and racial equity, we expect that in the coming years, school boards across Ontario will be subject to increased scrutiny in regards to the diversity of the overall student experience. In anticipation, school boards should:
- communicate with parents, teachers and other stakeholders on the topic of anti-racism and inclusion
- review anti-racism policies and training programs
- audit current data collection mechanisms.
In light of the foregoing, ensuring your board is prepared to respond accurately and in a timely manner will be of critical importance – now more than ever. Should you need assistance in reviewing your school board’s policies or data collection processes, our human rights and privacy teams are well-positioned to assist.
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