Project Research

TDSB: Recent History of Race Relations and Equity Policies

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) was founded in 1998 after the amalgamation of six GTA school boards previously known as the Metropolitan Toronto School Board. The TDSB is Canada’s largest school board and the fourth largest school board in North America, serving 583 schools and approximately 247,000 students. Toronto’s diverse population is reflected in the student body of the TDSB, with 71% of students identifying as non-White.


In 1970, the Toronto Board of Education (Toronto’s pre-amalgamation school board) recognized a need to diversifying its K-12 curriculum. Studies conducted by the Board had shown that Black student’s learning outcomes lagged behind that of White students. In response, Black teachers and community members called for a diversification of the provincial curriculum, stating that a growingly diverse student body required learning materials that reflected their lived experience. This call for educational diversity has been echoed by community members in the decades since, with numerous provincial studies highlighting Ontario’s need for curriculum reform. Though some steps have been made, the Ontario government has continually blocked community engagement and stalled needed diversification of the provincial curriculum. The Ontario curriculum to remains Eurocentric, failing to represent the lives of non-White students.


The term school-to-prison pipeline (SPP) describes the disproportional impact that harsh school disciplinary policies that criminalize students have on marginalized populations, causing the education system to become an avenue for racialized youth to enter the criminal justice system. These harsh disciplinary policies can also lead to the criminalization of racialized students outside of school, as students who are missing school do to expulsions or suspensions are twice as likely to be arrested during these periods of punishment. The school-to-prison pipeline is intrinsically linked to the explosion in incarcerations that occurred within Canada and the US starting in the late 1970s. An increase in the criminalization and incarceration of racialized students at this time mirrors the mass-incarceration of racialized people more broadly. In Ontario, the root of the SPP phenomenon are commonly linked to the Safe Schools Act (2000), which was largely seen as a companion policy to the Safe Streets Act (1999). However, the phenomenon stems farther back then these two documents.


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