Ottawa-Carleton District School Board proposes equity-based graduation ceremony

Equity-based graduation ceremony. Image credit: X/@XXBasedRights

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) proposes switching to equity-based graduation ceremonies, allowing students without passing grades to participate.

Under the proposed changes, the board would be changing the policy’s language to phase out graduation ceremonies in favour of commencement ceremonies.

“The main difference between a commencement ceremony and a graduation ceremony is that a commencement ceremony is more inclusive,” the OCDSB in a statement on its website. “This aligns with the Board’s larger commitments to equity, inclusion, and diversity.”

Feedback from the public is being invited by the board using an online form between Feb. 2 and March 29.

All students including those who have historically faced challenges within the education system would be encompassed in the ceremonies.

Although some students may not be graduating with the class for various reasons, nevertheless the proposed policy says that it should not ‘preclude’ them from celebrating their milestones along with their peers.

Apart from removing gender-based distinctions from achievements, student graduation awards, trophies, medals and other prizes traditionally given at graduation ceremonies would be phased out in favour of achievements, to be more inclusive to students’ experiences and talent, without being strictly academic. 
The policy would also include playing of the national anthem at ceremonies in addition to a land acknowledgement.

The board’s graduation policy has been in place since 1998 the new proposal would be reflecting the OCDSB’s 2023-27 Strategic Plan to revise practices at both the school and system level.

“Students’ educational journeys are diverse, this means that all students’ experiences ought to have the opportunity to be celebrated with their teachers, peers, families, and friends in attendance,” a report presented to the board’s Ad Hoc Review Committee meeting in February reported saying..

Discussion of the policy will be done at the board’s next Ad Hoc Policy Review Committee meeting on April 4.