Student and teacher perceptions of race relations in a rural, Northwestern Ontario secondary school
Oussoren, Jennifer Klasiena
Master of Education
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Schools in Canada reflect the country’s racial diversity. Race relations therefore is an issue that most schools face. In this study, teacher and student perceptions of race relations at a secondary school were explored, including students and teachers’ lived experiences and how, if at all, they feel racism in schools should be addressed. The two main racial groups in the school were White and Aboriginal. The participants in this study were grade 11 students of Aboriginal and White descent, and a sample of teachers. A qualitative research methodology was used to explore participant perceptions. To collect data, interviews were conducted, writing tasks were administered, and a document analysis of the Board’s anti-racism policy was done. Students had a wide range of perceptions of race relations in their school, from denial of any difference between the groups, to anger over unequal treatment of the two groups. Participants provided their own definitions of racism and explained how it is or is not present in their school. Many students and teachers reported cases of racial name-calling, jokes, slurs, and stereotypes. Teachers discussed some challenges of teaching in a racially diverse setting. Most students and teachers believed that schools have a responsibility to address racism, and provided suggestions for doing this. Implications of the findings are discussed, as well as recommendations for the school and the school board.