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Public school board’s student census shines a light on diversity

Questions out of the 2020/21 student census covered topics such as race, ethnicity and sexual orientation

The Simcoe County District School Board’s student census results are in and with about half of all students or their guardians participating, the outcome provides a clearer picture of local student demographics.

In April 2021, 26,978 students (51%) participated in the first-ever student census undertaken by the public board. The census was completed confidentially. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 had a parent/guardian participate in the census on their behalf, while students in Grades 7-12 participated in the census themselves.

“The purpose of the census is to enhance the SCDSB’s capacity to understand areas of strength and need for our student population,” noted Dawn Stephens, associate director of education with the SCDSB in her report.

Stephens also noted that the census will aid the board in making intentional efforts to identify and remove barriers that impact equity, achievement, and well-being of students.

“Collecting personal information about race and ethnicity is important and necessary work within all Ontario school boards,” she wrote.

Stephens notes multiple key findings out of the census data.

Fifty per cent of students selected female as part of their gender identity, while 49% selected male. Two per cent selected a gender-diverse identity.

Students in Grades 7-12 identified their sexual orientation as heterosexual/straight (78%), LGBTQ+ (23%) and/or another sexual orientation not listed (less than one per cent).

Five per cent of students identified as Indigenous and, of these participants, 59% were First Nations, 40% Métis and three per cent Inuit.

The racial backgrounds identified by students included: Black (5%), East/Southeast Asian (5%), Indigenous (4%), South Asian (5%), and white (84%). Latino, Middle Eastern and additional racial backgrounds were each identified by less than two per cent of students.

The top five ethnic or cultural origins identified by students included: Canadian (75%), English (21%), Irish (13%), Scottish (12%), and German (7%).

The top five languages students speak at home included: English (96%), French (5%), Spanish (2%), Russian (2%), and, Urdu (1%).

Fifty-nine per cent of students reported they do not have a religious or spiritual affiliation. Thirty-three per cent identified as Christian, 4% as Muslim, 2% as Hindu and 1% as Jewish.

Twenty-three per cent considered themselves (or their child) to be a person with a disability or condition. The top three disabilities or conditions identified by these participants included: Mental Health (45%), Learning (38%) and Developmental (18%).

The student census results will be presented to trustees during their program standing committee meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

According to the report, once the data has been fully analyzed, the results will be used to guide the board’s focus on programs, supports, and resources that support equitable outcomes for all students. “Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, reports will be released related to particular themes from the census,” wrote Stephens.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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