Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives
Highland Hall addresses diversity issues, past and present, Community Letter July 14, 2020
Highland Hall addresses diversity issues, past and present.Dear Community Members,
Highland Hall Waldorf School denounces social injustice. Whether it is race, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, ageism, disability, or economic background, we condemn it and promise to combat it.
Over its rich and long history, Highland Hall has been known for its kind and considerate students who are willing to engage with others with respect and compassion. This is a consequence of being raised in a community of caring and involved adults. However, while individual teachers may have stoked the flame for social justice, the institution has not. We acknowledge that, as an institution, we fell short in failing to recognize and to address the internalized and unconscious biases and allowed those biases to impact our relationships with some students and members of our community. As an institution, we should have responded with greater urgency when issues arose, and we regret that. We apologize to our students, alumni, and community, past and present, for not having done much more to address hurt that you experienced by peers or staff, and we pledge to implement structures and processes that can create a safe space for sharing and working constructively to deal with any social injustice.
Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEI) has recently submitted its mandate to the College and aligns with the school’s mission. This committee will help to promote diversity, equity, and social inclusion at all levels of the community up to and including Board members. As an active community, engaged on these long overdue issues, we can deepen our human experience together.
We also realize that, in some ways, we have failed to live up to the school’s social mission. Clearly, we see that it is imperative to implement curriculum changes on an institutional level and to examine curriculum and methodology through the modern lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Teachers have already begun discussing ways of both broadening and deepening the curriculum and will soon have more resources available. The DEI Committee, in conjunction with the College, has committed to hosting an anti-racism consultant for the Back to School Conference with faculty and staff in late August; we will then continue intensive work during the course of the year. We believe that the Waldorf curriculum is a remarkable one and will become more remarkable once we have broadened it to be more global and inclusive.
We realize that we must continue our institutional professional development and engage in training on institutional racism, white supremacy culture, white privilege, and consider programs such as restorative justice throughout the school. Now is the time for change, and all community members will be expected to support and to work towards growth, both personal and on an institutional level. As we act on our interest and press ourselves into this work, always keeping in mind the students—we can let Ta-Nehisi Coates’ words to his son echo within us: “You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.”
For the College
Community Letter regarding George Floyd's death, June, 2020
It is with heavy hearts, still in shock and outrage over the death of George Floyd, that we are all trying to address the crisis facing our nation. It is hard to believe that we are in the 21st century and systemic violence and racism persist against the Black community. We, adults, struggle with anguish, anxiety, and fear for our country, right now. Our children sense this tension, and they too may be flooded with these feelings. While we have a context for all that is happening in our communities, they do not. They will need us to be able to talk to them in honest and age-appropriate ways about race and racism, to share our understanding and our hopes and commitments. At Highland Hall, our hearts go out to members of our community, and to all who have suffered indignities. We should be asking ourselves what we can do to help heal our society, promote social justice, and teach our children to be courageous and caring in these conversations.
Of course, as members of a Waldorf community, we work with a deep developmentally based education and want to share a picture of current events in an age-appropriate manner. Burdening them with ugly, societal ills would be a lot to handle at certain points in their young lives; however, we can bring pictures and conversations that are truthful and meaningful. We have a responsibility to do that. We have included some resources below to help begin those conversations.
Anti-Racism For Kids 101: Starting To Talk About Race
Here's How W. Kamau Bell Talks About Race With His Kids
100 Race-Conscious things you can say to your child to advance racial justice
You should know that, at the national conference last June, AWSNA adopted a statement affirming Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Waldorf schools. Click here to view. As a movement, we recognize that race, bias, and privilege are on-going issues that need our conscious attention and focused, determined will to change. To that end, the school started a Diversity Committee a few years ago, and that group has begun working in the area of race, gender, and sexual orientation, including meeting with the High School Student Council and the faculty.
Personally, I have been grateful to the work of the Chair, Kenya Strong, who spearheaded activities over the last couple of years and who also brought up important topics, such as micro-aggressions. She has shared the excellent resources above, and you can find additional worthwhile material she recommends by going to:
As educators, and specifically those in a Waldorf community, who hold the dignity of the human being in highest regard, it is important that we address institutional prejudice wherever it arises, including in our own community. We can begin by asking ourselves important questions such as: how do I participate, consciously or unconsciously, in systemic racism? What can I do to consciously change that? What does it mean to be an ally? Even these three basic questions can begin to change a society. The more we can dialogue and truly listen to the stories of those who have suffered, the more we can rouse ourselves to make changes in the world. When we do that, we live more intently in the mission of Waldorf education—to remove hindrances so that each student has the opportunity to fulfill their own unique destiny.
Ken Lavner, Pedagogical Chair
For the College
Student Council Statement on Black Lives Matter and the Need for Change
Message from the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.
Dear AWSNA Community Members,
We send this email today acknowledging societal injustice and the resulting anger that has escalated throughout the United States this past week. We offer our thoughts to the communities of City of Lakes Waldorf School and Minnesota Waldorf School, so near the epicenter of the protests spurred by the murder of George Floyd. We grieve for the family of George Floyd and are outraged by the unjust acts perpetrated by police officers whose very task it is to protect their communities. We are once again reminded of the systemic racism that exists within the United States.
Yet we recognize that sadness and outrage are not enough. At the foundation of Waldorf education lies the mission of social renewal. As Waldorf educators, we hold the dignity of life and the human being at the center of our work. It is our responsibility to bear witness to what is happening in the world, to elevate the voices of marginalized people, to change the course of inequities, and to break down structural prejudice in all forms where it exists, particularly in Waldorf education.
We wanted to remind you of the AWSNA Member Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, adopted by the delegates in June 2019, attached below. In approving this commitment statement, the Association and member schools and institutes agreed to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion. As such, advancing DEI is one of the guiding forces behind AWSNA’s strategic priorities. The AWSNA executive team is spending more time than ever asking the following questions:
- How do I participate, consciously or unconsciously, in systemic racism?
- What meaningful actions will I take in service to the leadership and agency of people of color?
- Where are the possibilities for me to prioritize racial justice in my work to further Waldorf education?
We know many of you have taken up the work of DEI in meaningful ways within your communities. We invite you to join us in exploring these questions and in elevating your school's commitment to social justice initiatives.
In addition to the resources and discussions located in the DEI Community in the AWSNA Community Hub, we hope you find the following to be helpful:
How to talk to children about racism and violence: resources for teachers, parents and guardians
Anti-racism Resources for White People: a compilation of resources for white people and parents to deepen our work in anti-racism
Array Now: Started by Ava DuVernay, director of Now They See Us, this is a compilation of African American independent films - an array of stories and voices.
Teaching Tolerance: Teaching about race, racism, and police violence
75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice: Curated by Medium and updated regularly.
Blessings on your work,
Beverly, Stephanie, and Melanie
AWSNA Member Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Doc