Dear Berkeley Carroll Community,
Over the course of the past month, I have been in conversation with Black students and alumni about the racism that they have experienced at Berkeley Carroll as well as the broader context of anti-Blackness in the nation at large. Some of these discussions have also included non-Black Students of Color. We have shared ideas about proactive means of addressing structural and interpersonal racism, speaking to preventative work as well as appropriate responses to racist behavior in our community.
Most recently, following publication of the Black@BC and the LGBTQ@BC Instagrams, a group of our alumni and current students have created a list of Action Items intended "to encourage positive change and accountability within our community". We are committed to promoting an anti-racist environment at Berkeley Carroll that is supportive of Black students. It bears noting that such an environment is in keeping with the stated aspirations of our school and would benefit our entire community. We must work to ensure that students and adults across all races, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities feel respected and supported at school.
I appreciate the effort that alumni and students have put into the Action Item document; it is thorough and I have taken the time to review it carefully with my colleagues and other members of the Berkeley Carroll community (I hope also to discuss the document with its authors should I come to know who they are). A number of the proposals dovetail with efforts that have already been underway. For example:
- Our psychology team now includes two colleagues of color who were hired in the spring of 2019 and in March of 2020. They offer expertise in a variety of areas including culturally competent and trauma-informed support for Students of Color and LGBTQ students.
- Hiring protocols have been revised twice in the past five years to reduce bias in the hiring process while attracting faculty and staff who represent a variety of identities and perspectives and who also have demonstrated involvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion work.
- With Board support, staffing in the Office of Equity and Inclusion will increase in the coming school year so that our reach and capacity in this area allow us to better serve our multifaceted community of students, parents, guardians, and colleagues.
- Berkeley Carroll's Policy on Hate Speech and Biased Behavior, developed in the spring of 2019 and cited in the 2019-20 Student-Family Handbook, expressly prohibits the use of slurs and epithets based on identities including race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ability, and religion. This policy applies to both academic and informal settings.
- We are moving forward with the Upper School sequence of study that I proposed prior to the end of the school year. The preliminary course titles are: Race and Racism in the United States: The Theoretical and Practical Foundations of State Sponsored White Supremacy, Social Organizing and Social Movements in the United States: Theory and Practice, and Generative Conversations and Coalition Building. A course focused on identity development and empathy through reflection and engagement with societal systems is being developed for Middle School. Additionally, we will pursue the through lines that these courses for older students share with the Lower School and Health and Human Sexuality Curriculum and the Anti-Racist Curriculum that was launched in the Lower School last year.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion-themed professional development and programming for faculty, staff, students, parents, and guardians has been ongoing; however, we will additionally require anti-racist professional development on an annual basis for faculty and staff during the 2020-2021 school year while expanding anti-racist programming for students and families across all three divisions.
- The invitation to convene a mandatory school meeting during which racism and anti-racism are defined and applied to the Berkeley Carroll context is one that I eagerly accept.
Beginning this summer and continuing into the 2020-2021 school year, the administrative team will undertake additional initiatives suggested in the Action Items document along with others that were already under consideration. Toward fulfilling our goals, committees focused on curriculum, programming, professional development, and improving school and community accountability will help to drive this work. Additionally, a task force with representatives from various constituencies in our community will be formed to help to assess our efforts to strengthen current practice and drive additional change across the areas highlighted above.
In the coming weeks, in addition to the existing option of voicing their concerns directly to an administrator or other school representative, students, parents, guardians, faculty, and staff will have a new option of using a digital form to forward concerns and complaints regarding racist, transphobic, homophobic, and other biased behaviors.This form will go directly to the Head of School; Division Director(s); and the Director of Equity and Inclusion. Individuals who submit the form will receive confirmation that the matter is being pursued. As determined by the division in question, the Upper School Dean of Student Life, Middle School Dean of Students, or Lower School Assistant Directors and Divisional Equity and Inclusion Representatives will also receive the form. A trusted adult in the community can fill out the form on a student's behalf if the student prefers. Similarly, upstanders who witness inappropriate behavior may submit a form. Part of the summer and early fall's work will be examining and further developing a method of documenting complaints, engendering follow up, and tracking progress while promoting accountability and upholding the opportunity for those who have a concern and those who fall under scrutiny to participate in a fairly adjudicated process. The administration affirms the support for reconciliation and restorative justice referenced in the Action Items and will provide training to students, faculty, and staff involved in this process.
I will continue meeting with members of our community, including students, alumni, parents, guardians, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the Board's Community and Inclusion Task Force, the Parents Association's Mosaic Committee, and the School Culture and Equity Council among other groups. These conversations will help to inform our planning and additional details will be forthcoming as our efforts progress.
As I have noted previously, the work before us will present challenges. Berkeley Carroll is situated within a nation that has not reckoned with the historic and contemporary anti-Blackness codified in its foundational documents, borne in its history, and rife in its present. There are structural and conceptual flaws that have compromised equity initiatives in our private and public schools. Notwithstanding these impediments, Berkeley Carroll is called to do more and to do better. We all have the capacity to grow and to deepen our commitment to this work. Across generational lines and myriad identities, both at home and in school, we must ask ourselves how best to model the integrity, rigor, grace, and empathy that foster a just and supportive learning environment. We must accelerate learning, cultivate engagement, and nurture hope; these combined efforts promise to enhance our capacity both to envision and to create substantive and lasting change.
Lisa Yvette Waller, Ph.D.
Head of School