A report on Surrey’s Queen Elizabeth Secondary finds that Black students experience racism frequently, with little support provided to them when they speak up.
Due to the frequency of such incidents, the Surrey school district is promising to make changes to help all BIPOC students feel accepted within the walls of the school-building.
The district held 39 ‘listening circles’ throughout Surrey and White Rock to gather input from BIPOC students, staff, families and other community members on their lived experiences. The district’s Racing to Equity Consulting Group conducted a detailed scan of Queen Elizabeth Secondary, located at 9457 King George Blvd., in addition to a second scan of the district as a whole.
The principal and vice principal of Queen Elizabeth requested the school have its own separate report done. The findings of each report were released to the public last week.
Every student and staff member recorded in the report have been kept anonymous.
“Sometimes the school just makes me feel unwelcome, disgusted, cause at this school I feel like most people are racist towards Black people and I’ve had people call me the n- word,” one student shared during a listening circle.
“When you’re biracial, I feel like people don’t understand that you never really fit into one group. I would get called like a ‘dirty black person’ and comments like that,” another student said.
These experiences have led many Black students to have frayed relationships with the institution, as many recalled instances where they would report their mistreatment and actions were either not taken appropriately, or at all.
A parent called the use of the N-word at the school “notorious” and that staff need to “put an end to it” as soon as they hear the slur being used.
“Honestly, I’m not proud of being a QE student, if someone would ask me what school I went to I wouldn’t even want to say because the entire school is based off racism, sexism and we’re not treated fairly at all,” a student said.
“I’ve had multiple incidents where I’ve been targeted racially and have been assaulted and no one did anything.”
A student even recalled a teacher calling a group of BIPOC students “you coloured people.”
Additionally, a day coined ‘Slap-Ass Fridays’ was a weekly occurrence towards female students at Queen Elizabeth Secondary, that consitutes sexual harassment, the report notes.
“When I came forward about this in Grade 8, I was more shunned upon and didn’t get any justice – they just went off with a warning,” one student said about reporting the day, saying that sexism was very common at the school.
For many students, noted the findings, not taking proper action when racism or discrimination is observed or brought up is just as bad as actually committing the hateful speech or act.
The findings of the listening circles found that BIPOC staff were not exempt from experiencing discrimination.
“When I started here, I did not feel very supported, and I felt a lot of gas-lighting when issues of racial justice were brought up,” a teacher said.
Cultural appreciation at Queen Elizabeth Secondary was reported as complicated. Some students felt that certain ethnic and cultural backgrounds were more accepted than others by school staff members and other students. Some experienced bullying for ethnic foods and religious beliefs.
“I’m tired of folks grappling with the idea that racism exists – you had a whole summer last year after a global uprising to learn more about racism; We’re past that stage and you need to be doing some action. It’s not our job to constantly be educating our administration on anti-racism,” a participant stated.
The Racing to Equity Consulting Group made three recommendations to the Surrey school district. One is to make a workplace development plan to promote anti-racism and offer more support services to BIPOC students and staff. A second recommendation is to include students, family and community input when making changes, while the last recommendation is to expand anti-racist leadership at Queen Elizabeth Secondary school.
“I think we all have unique identities, and we need to add that to our curriculum which will create a more meaningful, transformative educational experience,” an educator said.