Written by Rorri Geller-Mohamed, LCSW
August 4, 2019
Whether your child is currently in school or is still young and won’t be attending school for another few years, you need to know about this strategy to help your child in school. Being part of a diversity and inclusion committee at your child’s school can really make a difference in your child’s learning experience. Children thrive in school when they feel part of the community, interested in what they are learning, and cared for by the adults that are in the school. For children that are raised in multiracial families that looks like a school that is diverse and inclusive. (And this is even more important if the school your child attends has mostly white staff and students)
What is a diversity and inclusion committee?
It’s a committee often formed by the school or PTO/PTA (parent teacher organization/association) to focus specifically on diversity and inclusion issues within the school. Typically it is made up of parents, teachers, and administration and even sometimes students and community organizations are part of it. It’s important to have a group that is diverse including racially, ethnically, sexual orientation, and more.
How can I join one?
Ask at your child’s school and see if there is already and committee for you to join. If not, you can take the initiative to start one. One of the best ways to go about doing this is asking around to see who else might be interested in getting involved. (Remember you want to have a diverse group of people). Then you can approach the PTO and/or principal and share your thoughts about what you want to do, how it will be beneficial for the school, and what support you are asking for from them.
What are some important issues that the committee can work on?
- Racial equity training for staff and administrators
- Developing a more inclusive curriculum
- Obtaining new more inclusive materials for teachers to use in the classroom with kids (ex. textbooks, school library books, student books)
- Hiring a more diverse staff
- Gathering data around racial equity issues in the school
- Restorative justice practices instead of traditional discipline
- Mental health and racial equity
- Visually inclusive school environment (ex. decorations, posters, flags, historical figure pictures)
What are some of the challenges that committees sometimes face and how to overcome them?
- Lack of support from the administration: Try a different approach. Address the issues in a way that it relates to current school challenges and use buzz words that get their attention (ex. School shootings/violence, social-emotional learning, bullying)
- Not many parents and/or teachers interested in participating: Help parents and teachers to understand the benefits for their child and class. For teachers make sure they understand how it directly correlates to children’s academic outcomes and behavior. Explore and better understand their resistance. There may be other steps needed before the committee is formed.
- Lack of people of color on the committee. This should be a red flag right away. Explore the leadership and culture of the committee. Is it centering on the voices of the parents and staff of color? What needs to shift for that to happen? Find out what might be preventing parents of color from joining.
- Lack of resources. This is often related to both time and money. Create a structure that works for the committee members involved. It may mean that you meet by video conferencing instead of at the school. It may mean that meeting times alternate so that it’s convenient for all members. When money is an issue it’s often due to a lack of it being viewed as a priority. Work with administration to educate around the importance of these issues as they relate to child development. Look for grants and outside community organizations that you can partner with that can help support you.
To showing up at school.
If you are having a hard time imagining how this would work, how you could get involved, or just feeling like no one at your child’s school would be interested, know that you are not alone in your feelings but please don’t give up. This could be a very valuable tool to help support your child’s self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence.
THRIVE Parent Coaching Program
If you are interested and want to hear more about it, we can schedule a time to talk and see if this program is a good fit for you and your unique family situation.
I know that if I don’t step up, I’m allowing racism to continue. And it’s only an option for me because of my white privilege.
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