OCDSB bans use of “N” word

Ottawa’s largest school board bans any use of n-word at school, including in class discussions

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board issued a directive on Tuesday to clarify expectations around what has become a contentious issue: whether it is ever acceptable to utter racial slurs.

Author of the article:Jacquie Miller

Publishing date: Dec 01, 2020  •  

Ottawa’s largest school board says staff should never utter racial slurs such as the n-word, including during class discussions.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board issued a directive on Tuesday to clarify expectations around what has become a contentious issue: whether it is ever acceptable to utter racial slurs, even if they are contained in a text or are themselves the subject of a discussion.

Ottawa’s largest school board bans any use of n-word at school, including in class discussions

Here’s the clear answer from the school board to its staff: no.

“… the uttering or writing or use of racial or other slurs or epithets by staff (e.g. the n-word, pejorative terms used to describe Indigenous peoples, racial, ethnic, religious, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and/or disability attributes etc.) including when reading aloud texts, quoting or teaching course content, is not permitted and cannot ever serve educational purposes,” said the directive.

Uttering epithets is harmful, said the directive, and results in “inequities in educational outcomes between targeted and untargeted student groups.

“Experiences shared by students and families make clear that the use of racial and other slurs and epithets by staff has a major impact on student learning and well-being and ultimately success in school and life,” said the statement.

“As educators and educational support workers, we have a legal, moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that our actions and our words, our course content and resources to support teaching and learning, and our interactions with colleagues, students, families and community is done respectfully, inclusively, with sensitivity and free of bias.”

In addition, staff have an obligation to intervene — in a sensitive manner — if they hear racial or other slurs used by others, said the directive.

The statement said the board was prompted to clarify its expectations because of recent media discussion on the topic.

This fall, a part-time University of Ottawa professor ignited a controversy after she uttered the n-word during a class lecture about how marginalized groups such as people of colour, the disabled and the LGBTQ community have re-appropriated offensive words.

A student complained, the professor was suspended during an investigation, then reinstated. Some on campus condemned the professor while a group of professors signed a petition defending her academic freedom.

U of O president Jacques Frémont issued statements saying the university condemns racism but also supports academic freedom. In an October statement as the controversy escalated, he called for calm, reasoned debate and said little progress can be made on divisive issues in “a hostile and disrespectful environment”.

“The more tension we have around these social issues, the more radicalized and polarized the discourse becomes and the more difficult it is to find a viable way forward,” wrote Frémont.

“Our community deserves better, and I am pleased to note that its members have in recent days and despite divergent positions, nevertheless converged on the essential: an open university where the fundamental missions are articulated in full respect for the academic freedom and dignity of each of its members and where all deserve to be treated with dignity and not to be marginalized.”jmiller@postmedia.com

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