Advocates concerned over lack of transparency around formation of new PDSB committee to address racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions
(The Pointer Files)

Advocates concerned over lack of transparency around formation of new PDSB committee to address racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions

The Peel District School Board issued a callout for a committee to address racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions that have persisted for years within Canada’s second largest school board. For decades, it has been plagued by systemic discrimination according to a sweeping review by the provincial government four years ago. 

Its detailed examination of records found Black students, in particular, were routinely disciplined for the same act, for example, wearing a hoodie or hoop earrings, while white students who did the same were not punished.

Now, despite widespread criticism of the PDSB for repeatedly marginalizing the very community members harmed by decades of racism and other forms of discrimination, equity-seeking stakeholders are once again raising concerns over the lack of transparency around the process to confront the unfair treatment of Black and Indigenous students when handing out disciplinary punishment.   

The process to form this new committee, whose members will not be compensated for six meetings during the academic year, has drawn criticism from some members of the community involved with the original committee set up to address the same issue, following the disturbing findings in the provincial review, which was completed in 2020.

On February 8, the PDSB posted a call for community members to join its new Directive 21 Committee. Directive 21 is one of 27 directives handed down from the Ministry of Education after it investigated the school board following demands and evidence from community members whose children were forced to endure systemic anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination at the PDSB for decades. Trustees and board officials failed to address the evidence in front of them and went to great lengths to silence the voices of those who demanded equitable treatment under provincial and federal laws.

The director of the PDSB, Peter Joshua, at the time of the review, was fired, after repeatedly antagonizing community members who were simply trying to keep their children safe. Trustees responsible for racist public comments, defending those comments and years of ignoring the toxic systemic discrimination, in an education system where close to 85 percent of students are not white, eventually had to apologize for the generational harm they had done to students, particularly those who identify as Black.


Black community members at a PDSB meeting in 2020, shortly before elected trustees had to apologize for the systemic racism they helped perpetuate for decades. Records show Black students, for years, were unfairly punished for the same conduct that white students got away with.

(The Pointer files)


While the required responses to all 27 Ministry Directives have officially been submitted to the province—suggesting the PDSB is working to eradicate systemic discrimination—problems have not disappeared. 

Racial inequity in suspensions and expulsions at the PDSB persists. As recently reported by The Pointer, a progress report on Directive 22 — Eliminating Racial Disparities in Suspensions and Expulsions — revealed Black students are being suspended at the same rate as in the 2019-2020 academic year — the same year the Province issued its 27 binding directives to end systemic discrimination at the school board. 

Both Directive 21 and 22 address the issue of student discipline and racial disparities that have existed in the past. 

Black and Indigenous students are currently two times more likely to be suspended or expelled (based on the general rates for each group) compared to their overall representation in the board.


Graphs depicting racial disproportionalities in suspensions and expulsions from 2018-2019 to 2022-2023.

(Peel District School Board)


The callout for interested members for the new Directive 21 Committee sought participation from Black and Indigenous communities and representation from Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon. The Board stated the committee will “ensure accountability and to help inform future actions”.

Community advocate David Bosveld, who was a member of the original Directive 21 Committee—which he said has been engaged in important work to address the Ministry directive for the last three years—told The Pointer the Board has left questions from the previous members unanswered, including the potential for compensation for committee members dedicating their time to these complex, difficult subjects. 

“The community members were sitting there for two-hour monthly meetings, contributing their time,” Bosveld said. 

The Board, he said, was looking into potential compensation for committee members, but would need time to look into the request. He said the Board continued to push the subject back, giving the impression that it was working on compensating members, and then, unexpectedly, they learned about the new committee, whose members will not be compensated.

“It's just that lack of trust,” he said. “Even if you were not going to compensate people and you'd been in ongoing discussions about possibly compensating people, the first thing you should do is get back to those people and say, ‘okay, look, you know, it didn't work out, we didn't have the budget, we're not able to…maybe people would say, ‘okay, well, at least they tried,’” he said. “But not closing that circle of communication, it's actually disrespectful.”

This is only the latest example of a Board that has routinely shown disrespect to its community members who advocate for racial equity.

It sent a trespass letter to community advocate Idris Orughu over allegations he was threatening trustees, which police determined were baseless. The board later lifted the notice without providing an explanation or apology. It was issued by Joshua who was terminated after failing to take action on anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination within the PDSB. Bruce Rodrigues, who was appointed by the Ministry to take over governance of the board, later apologized on behalf of the Board for issuing the notice and for calling Peel Regional Police over the unsupported claims of harassment by Orughu toward Trustee David Green, who was Vice Chair at the time. 

Trustees also attempted to deflect criticism of harmful comments made by Trustee William Davies last term, after it became public that he referred to McCrimmon Middle School, which has a large Black student body, as "McCriminal.” When this harmful remark went before the Board, acting Chair Sue Lawton misled the public who were attempting to get answers by claiming they "have no record...of that comment". Davies later apologized, acknowledging the hurtful remark.

It also made a move advocates have said is vindictive against a dedicated community leader who had fought against anti-Black racism, Islamophobia and other systemic discrimination within the Board for years before his passing. After committing to naming its planned new building, The Centre of Black Excellence, after the late community activist Kola Iluyomade to honour his legacy, trustees later voted to rescind that decision. Trustee Kathy McDonald was the only one who voted against a motion to change the wording of a policy that other trustees claimed was the reason the building cannot be named after Iluyomade.

The Pointer asked the PDSB to confirm why members of the new committee will not be compensated. This question was not answered. 

“The revised D21 Committee will comprise members of the previous committee who have indicated a desire to remain part of this important work as well as additional members from across the Region of Peel, with the aim of representation from all three municipalities and other areas across the region not previously represented,” a spokesperson wrote in an email statement to The Pointer. “Peel District School Board deeply appreciates local volunteerism across our system through committees such as this, School Parent Councils, the PDSB Parent involvement Committee, and ongoing public policy consultations,” the statement reads.

Bosveld, who spent years working on the previous committee and has tirelessly advocated against anti-Black racism and to hold the PDSB accountable, also raised concerns about the reduced frequency of meetings for the new committee. 

“The depth and detail of this work will not be accomplished by reducing the frequency of the meetings or by adding new people who then don't have the background and the history of the previous conversations, and the data, and all of the information that’s gotten us to this point,” he said. 

Members of the previous committee were left to think it would continue and were told an upcoming meeting would be paused. Yet instead of following up with them about the stalled meeting or future of the committee, they were left without answers and eventually learned about the new committee being formed. 

“From my perspective, it just looks like…we've already gone for about eight months without meeting. In the meantime, according to the Board, the disparities in suspensions, exclusions and expulsions are starting to climb again and yet we're still waiting for a meeting and to see what this new committee looks like,” Bosveld said. 

“All of the questions that were left unresolved after last year really haven't been addressed in a meaningful way.” 


Community advocate David Bosveld, who was a member of the original Directive 21 Committee, says it was quietly disbanded without answering questions from original members.



The spokesperson for the PDSB told The Pointer the previous Directive 21 Committee “worked to provide critical feedback into the Safe and Caring Schools Policy 48,” and that “[t]his important policy laid the groundwork for the Board in creating and delivering professional learning for all schools and system leaders, as well as for establishing and implementing procedural fairness in all student disciplinary actions.”

The Board confirmed the new committee will meet six times a year for two hours at a time.

“We believe that the meeting schedules provide ample time and opportunities for volunteer committee members to work toward their mandate,” the spokesperson stated, adding members will “be welcome and supported” to use additional time to meet in smaller sub-groups “to focus explicitly on key items and projects.”

A reduced meeting schedule did not sit well with Bosveld, who felt it does not reflect the level of attention that needs to be paid to ending the harm currently inflicted on visible minority students within the PDSB. 

“There should be a sense of urgency,” he says.  

“One of the other things that I know I felt, and others in the community have expressed, is that once the trustees were restored their powers, the importance of the Minister’s directives, including Directive 21, seem to be placed on the backburner,” he said. 

When The Pointer attempted to ask each trustee to comment on why a new Directive 21 Committee is being formed and to comment on concerns from community members that the frequency of the meetings will not be enough to carry out the work, The Pointer was told by trustees Stan Cameron and Jill Promoli to contact the Chair of the Board, David Green, for comment. 

Trustee Cameron stated “[t]he Chair is the spokesperson for the Board of Trustees, [I’ll] refer you to him,” and Trustee Promoli stated “[a]s I’m not the Chair I’m unable to speak for the Board of Trustees,” and suggested “reaching out to David Green.”

Chair Green was already issued the same inquiry, to which he responded he would “have to let my lawyer know,” that The Pointer contacted him with a media request. 

No other trustees responded for comment (including Ammar Alian, Lucas Alves, Karla Bailey, Susan Benjamin, Jeff Clark, LeeAnn Cole, Will Davies, Satpaul Singh Johal, Brad MacDonald, Kathy McDonald or Srishti Sekhri). 

Trustees at the PDSB, as per its own webpage, are “elected by public school taxpayers every four years during municipal elections and are directly accountable to the community.” There is no policy that would prevent them from speaking to the media. 

The Province stripped PDSB trustees of their power in 2020 because they failed to address ongoing systemic racism and other issues evident at the PDSB. 

The provincial review found widespread anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination within the Board and issued its binding directives to force the board to act on the harm it was causing Black communities for decades. It’s something parents, community members and advocates had been calling for for years, but were ignored by trustees. As reported by The Pointer, after the province took over because of the trustees’ failure to take meaningful action as well as their resistance to the Province’s approach, nine of the trustees at the time, which included Stan Cameron and David Green, signed an open letter asking Rodrigues, who took over the Board's governance in order to eliminate its systemic anti-Black racism, be removed so they could regain control

It has been an ongoing battle for the community to hold the Board and its trustees accountable and see meaningful action taken to address anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination within the PDSB. 

The PDSB spokesperson told The Pointer: “The purpose of the Directive 21 Committee is to ensure that PDSB authentically engages community voices around the mandates of Directive 21.” 

This point, to authentically engage community, does not match with the PDSB leaving the original members—who were contributing their time and efforts toward the first committee—without answers to their questions or notifying them about the formation of a new committee while disbanding the original one they were on. 

The spokesperson explained the new committee was formed following an alteration to the PDSB Procedure Bylaw passed in January of last year, which calls for the Terms of Reference for all committees to be reviewed every four years at minimum. 

“It was the right opportunity to create a Terms of Reference for the D21 committee,” the spokesperson said. 

Bosveld says the issues within the PDSB are far from over, despite the Board submitting the 27 directives at the end of the 2022-2023 school year to the Ministry. 

“In some cases the Board is presenting the Ministry Directives as completed, but we would like to look even further into the data,” Bosveld said. “We know that Black students are still being suspended at greater rates than their counterparts of other races, but what about graduation rates? You know, what about credits? What about overall grades?” Bosveld questioned. 

“If the outcomes are still racially disproportionate, then what have those Ministry Directives accomplished and why would the Board be moving to soften their approach or a sense of urgency in addressing them?”

When presented with the Province’s findings in 2020, many of the trustees at the time responded with denial and inaction, save for trustee Kathy McDonald who still holds a seat and has supported Black communities fighting to hold the PDSB accountable, along with former trustee Nokha Dakroub who had also stood up against anti-Black racism at the PDSB.

Bosveld said the original committee “was progressing really well and digging into the issues and working with the Board’s staff to create policies and processes to address the disparities in suspensions for Black students.” It was “a positive experience, generally, and quite productive,” he said, acknowledging members “know these things aren't just going to disappear overnight because you have a committee,” but that they wanted to continue with the process they had poured so much time and care into to work through the Board’s systemic problems. 

“What they're presenting as a new committee runs counter to what we were discussing, and what we were led to believe would be happening going forward,” he said. “Even just the reduction in the frequency of meetings…it doesn't make us optimistic that we're going to be able to get the work done.”



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