Dear SSFS Families,
There is a lot to pay attention to in the world at large right now. In our independent school world, I want you to know that I am paying attention to the voices of students, alumni, and faculty of color who are outlining their past experiences around race through open letters and “Blackat[SchoolName]” social media accounts, detailing racial inequity, microaggressions, and discrimination they faced when they attended historically white schools. As an alum of color myself, and certainly as a Head of School, these stories resonate with me, as I spoke about in the June 23 Boston Globe news article.
At Sandy Spring Friends School, we are not aware of a current “BlackatSSFS” social media account as of today (7/3/2020). However, our recent Diversity Audit and ongoing conversations with our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community members have affirmed that SSFS is not without its own incidents of bias, microaggressions, and systemic racism. In light of this, I am proud of our Board's statement with regard to systemic racism at our School and in our country. As a School, we must both recognize and confront behaviors and policies that have negatively impacted members of our School community. As Head of School, I am committing us to substantive actions that ensure we live up to our promise of providing a safe and inclusive environment for all—a place where all of our students belong regardless of race or any other social identity that they may carry.
Informed by our Diversity Audit, which included a community-wide survey that went to all alums as well as focus groups with students of color, we are already taking action toward being a more equitable, just, and inclusive school. For example:
- SSFS is in the final stages of hiring a leader for our diversity efforts for the 2020-2021 school year, preparing the way for a Director of DEI to start in the fall of 2021. (You can find out more about the DDEI hiring process and other recent updates to our Diversity Audit.)
- We are reviewing trends in our discipline policies to ensure that discipline is dispensed fairly across social identities and that words or actions which target identity are disciplined appropriately
- We have enhanced our hiring practices to include anti-bias training for search committee members
- We are engaging in on-going professional development around anti-racism and inclusive pedagogy
As we work to build a community where all students belong, we recognize that a sense of belonging includes the opportunity to tell your story, to feel heard, and to know that wrongs have a clear way of being resolved. We are continuing conversations with our Black Student Affinity Groups for insight on concrete steps we can take in support of their experiences at SSFS. We are planning a series of moderated virtual discussions with Black students, alumni, parents, and faculty/staff to provide opportunities for dialogue and feedback. Recognizing that systemic inequity impacts many different identities, we are planning additional moderated virtual discussions for our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community members. The information gathered in these sessions will inform our on-going work.
There is power and healing in sharing our stories, and being present to the revelations of others is a deeply held Quaker principle. In that spirit, and with an eye toward bringing our school into even closer alignment with its mission and values, I invite all alums, and especially our alums of color, to share your experiences around race at SSFS with me directly at email@example.com or by contacting Marcia Johnson to set a time for us to connect. Current students, I hope you know that my door (and my email, my phone, my Zoom) are always open to you. Together, we can make our world at Norwood Road an even better place.