Skip to content

Racism, racial graffiti being tracked at Surrey school district

School zones with most racist incidents reported by Surrey Schools
JB Mahli, an educator of 20 years, has been appointed as Surrey Schools’ director of instruction for the racial equity department. (Surrey Schools/Jacob Zinn)

Schools in Guildford, central city and the Semiahmoo Peninsula have seen the most racist incidents this school year, a Surrey school district report shows.

At the regular June school board meeting on Wednesday (June 12), the director of instruction for Surrey Schools' racial equity department, JB Mahli, shared an update on the work the group has been undergoing.

"This school year, our focus has been on acknowledging, learning and acting on building capacity for all and uplifting students as change-makers," Mahli said.

His department was formed after a report was published in September 2022 consisting of findings from "listening circles" with students, staff and families of the Surrey school district who outlined instances of racism and discrimination they have endured in school.

In the last year, students and staff were able to report instances where they experienced racism online through an anonymous form or to district workers in the Safe Schools department.

Of the reported incidents, the Guildford area of Surrey had the highest number of racist instances disclosed to the district, at 17 for this school year. Following that was South Surrey/White Rock and central Surrey, with 10 incidents each. 

Fleetwood/Newton and Sullivan/Panorama had six incidents each reported, while Cloverdale/Clayton had five.

Instances of racial graffiti marked on school property are also submitted to the district, and those are easier to track as they are more likely to be reported, Mahli said.

The Cloverdale-neighbourhood schools were the site of the most racial graffiti in the last year, according to reports, with four, while Panorama/Sullivan had three, South Surrey/White Rock had two and Guildford-area schools had one reported. 

None were reported from the schools in central Surrey or Newton/Fleetwood.

"Next year, we look to capture all instances of racism to students and graffiti across the district. This is important to ensure students feel supported and know we as a district will respond to all forms of racism," Mahli said. 

"Tracking helps us know how we are doing and how we can support students and schools. They will come up, and our hope is they do get reported."

Being able to report issues of racism anonymously was important to students and relayed to Mahli when he was first appointed and making the rounds at Surrey's schools last year, he told Peace Arch News at the time.

"I’m assuming right now that not a lot of things get reported, and my hope is that that would change, of course, which means in the short-term, our numbers may go up and that’s fine to me as long as we are hearing what’s out there and people are feeling comfortable sharing their experiences," trustee Bob Holmes said.

As the racial equity department expands, Mahli outlined the goals for next year include creating more curriculum resources, speaking to students more about their experiences and thoughts on racism and racial equity at school, improve the district's tracking system for racial incidents and implement more training opportunities for staff.

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
Read more