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Sparking Change

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

This month our elementary and middle school students participated in Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a national campaign launched by Teaching Tolerance in which students from different grade levels eat lunch together. Designed to encourage students to identify, question and cross social boundaries, our students ate lunch in groups organized by birth month and had new conversations with students they had never met before. Studies have shown that social interactions across grade levels and group lines can help reduce prejudice, and that when children spend time with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.

The Mix It Up Lunch is just one example of the work our faculty does each day around social justice, diversity and inclusion. Today I'm excited to share news about our first ever diversity and inclusion newsletter, Sparking Change: Upstanders in Action, which highlights many of the ways that our community members - faculty, students and families - work hard to make our school, and our various communities, kind and just places.

When I began writing this post, the headline on the front page of the New York Times read "Police Routinely Violate Rights of Blacks in Ferguson, U.S. Says.” The Justice Department found that the Ferguson Police Department was routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents. We often say that the value added of an independent school education is a firm moral compass. We in schools must continue to have difficult conversations and articulate what social justice means until we have it.

As we navigate the sometimes difficult conversations around race and class, it is important to know that we are not alone in this work and that the issues that our community deals with are similar to those that other schools are wrestling with. Here is another article I came across from the New York Times that provides an overview of the teaching and learning around diversity that is going on in independent schools across the country. It's clear that this work is ongoing, requires us to think outside the box and be flexible and creative in our approaches.

This year, for the first time, Children's Day School hired a full time Director of Inclusion. As a community that believes deeply in the values of inclusion, diversity and social justice, it was time for us to make the commitment to deepen our work. Anthony Witte came on board in August with the charge of getting to know all of the constituencies that make up this remarkable community and to help us think about next steps in this important work.

Not only has Anthony and his team produced our first diversity newsletter, Sparking Change, he’s also created opportunities for conversation through his blog, Diversity and Inclusion at CDS. Designed to encourage dialogue, current parents can comment on his posts and think more deeply about the issues raised.

We know that this work is important, and that conversations are essential. I am so grateful to be part of a community committed to coming together to help make the world a more just place.