The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd and countless others, in conjunction with Amy Cooper’s weaponization of white privilege, have brought our nation to a breaking point requiring action. People around the world have come together to protest and denounce white supremacy and police brutality. The police serve as just one example of the physical and fatal manifestations of racist American institutions. However, racism bleeds into every facet of our lives - including the education system. Our society can no longer withstand the trauma of institutional racism that has a metaphorical chokehold on the necks of Black Americans.
As our nation faces a reckoning of its sordid history of systemic racism, it has become clear that Inter-Ac and Independent Schools in the Philadelphia area have a legacy of failing their Black students. We, the Inter-Ac and Independent School Black Alumni Association are speaking up in support of current students and parents, to demand institutional change.
Please read about our organization here: bit.ly/blkphlmis.
The failure to adequately support Black students has resulted in mental and physical harm, regardless of their socio-economic status. As the premier educational institutions in our area, this is unacceptable. A review of your websites’ diversity commitments shows varied good faith efforts have been made, including hiring diversity directors, instituting equity initiatives, and setting diversity targets. This is just a start. There is much more work to do as institutions.
You have a legal responsibility to ensure your faculty and staff address racial harassment and hostility. You also have a moral duty to prepare the next generation of leaders and to protect the spirit and the mere existence of your current students. This requires both the competency to respond to racist incidents from an anti-racist perspective and also the courage to directly address incidents of racial hostility and microaggressions.
This does not mean looking for a “both sides” solution: this means understanding the weight and legacy of 401 years of systemic inequity; this means understanding that our ancestors were not "slaves" but were enslaved human beings; this means understanding Black people love being Black; this means understanding Black people have a legacy of brilliance, achievement and success despite what they have endured; this means understanding that “people of color” are not the same as Black people. In fact, racial bias against Black people is often perpetuated by other minorities. These important principles are simply the baseline to allow Black students to comfortably breathe.
Beyond improving responses to individual instances of racism, your institutions must embrace foundational changes. Schools provide the context for a child’s first relationship with the world outside their families; and are thus instrumental in changing discriminatory attitudes and behaviors. You have the power to change not only your schools, but also our society as a whole. We are here to work with your institutions as alumni. We want our alma maters to be excellent and equitable for all.
Research demonstrates that a learning community is better, richer and more effective when students are from diverse backgrounds.1 Points-of-view are challenged by new thoughts and perspectives. Students concentrate and push themselves further. Cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving are improved. Empathy for people who are different is fostered.2 Prejudice is stifled by promoting awareness and creating personal connections with diverse cultures. With the rise of globalization, students will be better prepared for a diverse workplace. In order for your institutions to obtain the level of global prestige to be relevant in our changing world and to equip and empower your students to become change agents, we have included the following action items.
I. Public Apology
a. Sincere and comprehensive public apology acknowledging
insufficient actions and a commitment to improve
II. Quarterly Meetings
a. Schedule quarterly meetings with members of inter-Ac and
Independent School Black Alumni Association
a. Redesign and unify the Global and US History curriculums, ensuring that every student receives an intersectional education, incorporating Black history in the diaspora and the evolution of racism in America
i. Require the history department to rearrange the syllabi to weave Black history within existing
units underscoring the prominence of blackness in various time periods.
ii. African Americans have been in America since its inception. Black people should, therefore, be
reflected positively, intentionally, and inclusively throughout each department's curriculum and not
only limited to Black History Month. There are Black scientists, playwrights, historians, and
inventors, etc., who have contributed to American society at all of its stages. Work with HBCU
curriculum coordinators and department heads to achieve this.
b. Redesign lower grades' curriculum to introduce the truth of America's history in an age appropriate
way. See the Young Readers' Edition of Never Caught by GFS parent Erica Armstrong Dunbar as an
example for how to do this.
c. Require all students to take Racial Justice course to graduate. This will provide students with
strategies to address structural racism and advance racial equity.
d. Implement an official policy that when reading books with "N-word" aloud. Both teachers and
students should skip over the word. make the display of the word a teachable movement, explaining
the word's gravity and horrid history. Furthermore, make an effort to introduce Black literature that
doesn't include the "N-word" into curriculum.
IV. Faculty & Staff
a. Quarterly professional diversity and racial bias training for faculty and staff
i. Create specific and transparent hiring goals to curate a faculty that is racially diverse and representative of the United States
ii. Hire a minimum of 15% Black classroom teachers
b. Black faculty and staff often feel unsupported by Heads of School and Department Heads and leave to pursue other more welcoming opportunities. To better support and retain Black faculty and staff, hire Black individuals in leadership and decision-making positions.
c. Individuals are often hired into independent schools because they are related to or associated with a faculty member within the hiring school or at another independent school. To aid in attracting and hiring a more diverse talent pool:
i. employment opportunities should be shared with a wider array of organizations than the association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS), the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) and National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS); and
ii. school HR departments should attend events such as the "Teachers of Color Virtual Job Fair Recruit Diversity" and Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Job Fairs, and recruit minority teaching and faculty candidates therein.
d. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Director
i. Develop support for the DEI Director to ensure the Director's success and long-term retention by:
1) investing in professional coaching, consulting and mentorship;
2) providing the DEI Director with a substantial budget to implement anti-racist training among faculty and staff and DEI programming for parents and students; and
3) facilitating the hiring of support staff.The DEI Director position should be staffed as adequately as Communications and Development Offices, to achieve DEI goals.
ii. Conduct quarterly meetings with the IISBAA to discuss the metrics outlined in petition
V. Board Representation
a. Dedicated position of elected young alumni to represent the interests of Black students
a. Comprehensive accountability and reform for disciplinary actions for faculty, teachers and students, including a zero-tolerance racism policy, reporting student misconduct to colleges and universities, and a restorative justice and trauma informed approach to racial misconduct
i. Additional Discipline Policy Recommendations
1) To guarantee equity in school discipline, recognize how implicit racial bias shapes decisions as to which students are punished and how. Educate and train faculty and staff to raise their awareness and increase sensitivity of this issue.
2) Establish a safe channel for reporting racial harassment or racial discrimination, similar to Title IX, the federal law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities
3) To further combat racial misconduct, encourage the school community to follow the mantra: "When you see something, say something." Similar to Title IX requirements, schools should penalize school officials who fail to report racial misconduct.
b. Create a diversity report to be published annually on the following:
i. Student enrollment by race
ii. Faculty and staff breakdown by race and department
iii. Hiring practices and efforts made to increase Black teachers
iv. Newly admitted Black students
v. Statistics on applicants versus admitted student
vi. Students who leave school by race
c. Updates to meet benchmarks requested herein.
d. Accountability Efforts by Board
i. The Board to hold the Head of School accountable for complying with Petition Action Items, to ensure a long-lasting commitment to systemic change despite school governance adjustments. Board members, by Juneteenth 2021, to develop metrics to formally evaluate Heads of School on their DEI work.
e. Accountability Efforts by Students and Families
Require all students and families to annually evaluate school, faculty and staff on DEI progress.
f. Promptly investigate student and/or faculty member-aggressors that are identifiable in "@ Social Media Pages," and take appropriate action.
a. Create a system to anonymously report incidents and method for students to provide feedback to be overseen by the school's Director of Diversity
b. Retaliation Protection
i. Support, protect and fund Black student unions in order to: validate the importance of Black students in your school; enhance student mental health, self-esteem and confidence; and maintain a safe space for black students. Facilitate the creation of a multi school Black Students Union that serves students who attend all Philadelphia-area Inter-Ac and Independent Schools.
ii. Work with Inter-Ac and Independent School Black Alumni Association to build and grow a mentoring program for existing students
c. Support for Black Students
i. Black students are confronted with academic stress, while navigating the elite independent school environment. Lacking a sense of belonging coupled with the racial hostility Black students experience, affects students' long-term mental health.4 It is critical that Black students are nurtured emotionally, in addition to intellectually. Support Black students by hiring Black mental health professionals.
ii. Offer "Summer Induction Programming" to ease the cultural transition of incoming Black students and families. Recommended Program Architect: Dr. Hyacinth Wood
d. Support for Black Faculty and Staff
i. To better support and retain Black faculty and staff, provide access to on-campus Black mental health professionals.
ii. Facilitate the creation of a Black faculty and staff affinity group across the PAIS schools. Host monthly meetings for PAIS Black faculty and staff.
iii. Offer year-round "Induction Programming" to ease the cultural transition of incoming Black faculty and staff. Recommended Program Architect: Dr. Hyacinth Wood
iv. Recommended Resource: Watson, Dyan, et al. Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018.
VIII. Institutional Commitment
a. Divestment of the endowment from all companies related to the for-profit prison, weapons, or chemicals manufacturing industries
b. Increased investment of the endowment in Black-owned and WOC-owned companies
i. Phase-out or eliminate one-off community service projects in favor of sustained engagement and membership in community organizations.
IX. College Counseling
a. To ensure that Black students' college applications are packaged as adequately as other students', it is necessary that Black students have access to competitive senior projects, externships and education summer programs for students of color, such as W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute at Princeton University. College counselors should make themselves aware of the disparities that exist and the programs that fill those gaps.
b. Many colleges offer prospective students' weekends for students of color (e.g. Tufts University and Boston College). College counselors should make sure Black students are aware of and apply for these opportunities.
c. Counselors often encourage Black students to apply for less prestigious and 'safe' schools as opposed to challenging, top-tier schools and HBCUs. College counselors are to guide and encourage Black students to strive for the school their choice.
d. Develop a relationship with HBCUs and invite HBCU admissions officers to visit students, similar to admissions officers from predominantly white colleges and universities.
e. Help Black families navigate the complex college application process and identity private tutors and SAT prep courses.
X. Anti-Racist Education
a. In addition to diversity and racial bias training for faculty and staff, families and students should be required to undergo anti-racist training.
i. Recommended Resource: Anti-Racist Dictionary
Since its release, the Petition has received 4,248 signatures from alumni (68.2%), current students (16.6%), parents (6.4%),staff/faculty (2.6%), previous school attendees (2.4%) and others (3.8%).