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School boards asking for more info about students

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School boards in the Lambton-Kent district are asking students to share more about themselves, to help with inclusiveness.

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“The intention is to learn more about our students, to understand the gaps that exist in the current education system,” said Helen Lane, superintendent with the 62-school Lambton Kent District School Board.

A voluntary census called Count Me In is being sent to high school students, and families of elementary school students, March 1-25, she said.

The area’s St. Clair Catholic board plans in May to administer its census, required under Ontario’s Anti-Racism Strategic Plan, a spokesperson said.

Demographic information about students like race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation is sought in the public-board survey, as is socio-economic information about parents and guardians, information from the public board says.

Indigenous students can already self-identify when registering for school, Lane said, adding collecting more data will help better address where barriers and bias exist in the education system.

“We’ve recognized that we have systemic racism we have to address,” she said. “We know that our curriculum can be further enhanced by embedding information about students and communities that have been underrepresented and under-served.”

Hopes are the extra data helps better tailor learning to students, she said, noting the board already has information about where students live, their academics and any special needs.

“But there’s so much more to that child that we need to be able to better understand,” she said.

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Surveys aren’t anonymous but data is kept confidential, information from the board says.

Aggregate data that doesn’t identify individuals will likely be shared publicly in the fall, Lane said.

“We will make the information as public as possible because I think there’s a lot of good learning that should be shared,” she said.

This is the board’s first student census but won’t be its last, she said, noting what the data shows will help determine how frequently the board repeats the process.

“We’re really excited about it, to have an opportunity to get to know our students better,” she said.

The board respects people’s rights to privacy, Lane said, and parents and guardians with concerns are asked to contact their child’s school.

tkula@postmedia.com

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