Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the educational setting

Even before the death of George Floyd sparked international action on the issue of racism, Trinity College School recognized the importance of us, as a learning community, to do more work in the area of diversity and inclusion. In fact, three parts of our strategic plan touch on these timely and important issues.

Goal 2 - Foster a healthy and productive learning community: The School commits to “promoting empathy and respect within an inclusive and diverse environment.”

Goal 3 - Develop communication competencies in a complex world: We are prioritizing “growing intercultural understanding and confidences” and “modelling and encouraging social responsibility and understanding of ethics” in our students.

Work began in January 2020, with a faculty workshop on Truth and Reconciliation, led by alumnus Dana Wesley ’03. Under Dana’s guidance, teachers looked at ways they can embed the Calls to Action of the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation into their curriculum and practices. Prior to this, the School had begun the process of understanding the Indigenous roots of our space with the creation of a Land Acknowledgement.

Throughout 2020, faculty performed an audit of curriculum resources to expand the diversity of authors and topics being covered in various subjects. This effort coincided with and was made more salient by the global call to address racial injustice brought on by police violence against Black citizens. See below for more on the TCS Task Force to End Anti-Black Racism.

Our students have also demonstrated leadership in the area of equity and diversity throughout the current academic year. In September, the Junior and Senior Schools took part in national Orange Shirt Day to raise awareness and further their own understanding of Canada’s residential school history and its impact on Indigenous people. Two new groups were formed specifically to address issues of anti-Black racism and lift up Black voices: the Black Student Alliance (BSA) in the Senior School, and the Allies Against Racism (AAR) in the Junior School. The BSA hosted the School’s first Black Alumni Career Night in the fall, and created a series of initiatives to mark Black History Month: guest speaker Eternity Martis (author of They Said This Would be Fun); food, music and contests honouring Black culture; and a special chapel service on the topic of Black resilience. The AAR hosted a Black Lives Matter-themed dress day and an assembly on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January. During Black History Month, the AAR created a series of videos celebrating the achievements of Black people throughout Canada’s history and, this spring, members of the group interviewed TCS alumni who identify as members of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) community; watch for these video interviews on the School’s social media channels.

Members of the School’s Cultural Awareness Group (CAG) have been invested in ongoing efforts to share the cultural diversity of our school community through presentations at club meetings, Lunar New Year celebrations and the annual International Day festivities. This year, the club has put current events in the spotlight, facilitating important discussions, including in response to the rise in incidents of anti-Asian racism. Staff members have delivered compelling presentations to the group, and in March, Grade 12 student Carly Lin worked with her CAG peers to host a photography exhibit – Refocus: The Stories of Us – to use art to forge bonds of empathy and understanding. Later this spring, the TCS community plans to welcome guest speaker, alumnus Thanh Vu ’08, for Asian Heritage Month in May.

Also this spring, the annual Pink Shirt Day event against bullying was held with terrific participation from both Junior and Senior students. The Junior School hosted events in conjunction with International Women’s Day to advance the cause of gender equity. Two Senior School clubs – Trinity Students for Social Justice (TSSJ) and the Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) – partnered to create pronoun buttons for anyone in the School who wished one, highlighting the importance of using correct pronouns as a sign of respect for each other’s gender identities. The GSA will follow up that initiative with a presentation to faculty in May on the topics of gender and sexual diversity, aimed at providing teachers with further insights from a student perspective, on how best to support all students in their classrooms. The GSA also has plans to honour Pride Month in June, which we hope to begin with the ceremonial raising of the Pride flag.

All of these initiatives are just the beginning. We recognize as an educational institution that we have an ongoing responsibility to teach and role model kindness and empathy, and to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, both in our own actions and through our curriculum. The recommendations of the TCS Task Force to End Anti-Black Racism, as well as the work of our school-led and student-led awareness and advocacy groups, will help guide further progress toward these important goals which we look forward to sharing with the TCS community in the months and years ahead.

TCS Task Force to End Anti-Black Racism

In late May of 2020, TCS joined the chorus of voices worldwide calling for an end to anti-Black racism, hosting listening sessions to prioritize the voices of our Black community members and, subsequently, creating the Task Force to End Anti-Black Racism.

Taking a firm stance against anti-Black racism, the School’s 60-member task force – comprised of students, staff, alumni and parents – has worked actively since last June to survey the community, conduct research and audit the School’s current practices, and compile a set of recommendations. While the School will be reporting back to the greater TCS community this spring to share short- and long-term plans and actions aimed at ensuring progress toward our anti-Black racism commitment, active steps have already been taken to bolster a culture of inclusion and belonging at the School including, but not limited to: additions to the TCS Honour Code; a review of language in school publications, including removing gendered language where possible; implementation of hiring practices aimed at attracting a diverse staff; hiring of a social-emotional counsellor with training and experience in BIPOC issues; and anti-racism, equity and diversity workshops for all educational and operational staff members and Senior School students.