A south Calgary high school has paused the distribution of this year’s yearbook after concerns were raised over two pages that featured Black students.
The last days of school at Joane Cardinal-Schubert High School have students and parents talking about two collage pages, featuring pictures of Black students with the caption “JCS Black students represent influence.”
“Just to be clear, I don’t think their hearts and intentions were in the wrong place,” said Kay L, executive director of Black Lives Matter YYC.
“I think what they were trying to do was correct. I just feel it came across a little wrong. I feel that they missed the mark with what they were trying to do.”
It ‘looked more like tokenism’
Kay L questions why the school decided to single out Black students.
“I think instead of looking inclusive and diverse, this just looked more like tokenism and a desperate attempt to look diverse and inclusive. The goal here is integration, and I just feel that kind of segregated the Black students in the school, but again, I don’t think that was their intention,” Kay L said.
Reaction from students at Joane Cardinal-Schubert High School was mixed. Some told Global News this week that the yearbook pages were “weird” and “awkward” while others were OK with the pages because students were involved in creating them.
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As it turns out, there was enough pushback for the school to take action.
According to the Calgary Board of Education, the school has now paused the distribution of the yearbook as they explore options for reprinting pages that have caused concern.
The CBE said like all high schools, the JCS annual yearbook was designed by students under the supervision of staff volunteers. The CBE explained that the two pages in question were designed by students who participated in a focus group of racially diverse students, which was led by students.
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“The school has received feedback from students and parents within their community and will continue to consider the impact of this project on students and families and how to improve in the future,” said CBE communications advisor Megan Geyer.
A learning opportunity
Kay L hopes this can be a learning opportunity for everyone and that schools consider different ways of recognizing diversity.
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“Maybe just showing the school in its entirety and say, ‘We are diverse,’ rather than try to show it the way they did,” Kay L said.
“I think that’s where they tripped up. Trying to show, ‘Hey, look we have Black students here,’ I think that’s where it came across wrong. They could’ve just said they are diverse and inclusive and left it at that.”
This year, Joane Cardinal-Schubert High School created a diversity council of students and staff, as well as a diversity policy that outlines expectations and responsibilities for all school community members.
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