HS campus bungalows empty quad

Address­ing Systemic Racism at School

Dear Waverly Community,

The stories that have been shared by current students and alumni who are Black, Indige­nous, and People of Color (BIPOC) on the @thewaverlyway Insta­gram account make clear that students have expe­ri­enced harmful acts of racism in our commu­nity. The students and alumni who have posted and commented on the account have demon­strated tremen­dous courage. We are inspired by their actions and support them in their efforts to push the Waverly commu­nity to live up to our stated ideals. Please know that there will be no reper­cus­sions to any student posting, sharing, or ampli­fy­ing the voices of BIPOC expe­ri­ences at Waverly. We want to assure them that their words are encour­ag­ing deep personal and insti­tu­tional reflec­tion and an even greater commit­ment to making the school’s mission and diver­sity, equity, and inclu­sion (DEI) state­ments true for all members of our community. 

For many years, we relied too heavily on our belief in ourselves as a small school with close student-teacher rela­tion­ships, a commit­ment to encour­ag­ing students to be the best versions of them­selves, and a progres­sive curricu­lum. Waverly did not have the neces­sary systems in place to fully support our BIPOC students and educate all members of our commu­nity about systemic racism and white supremacy. We apol­o­gize for the harms that our BIPOC students and their fami­lies suffered as a result.

While we still have much to do, we have taken several signif­i­cant steps in recent years. We estab­lished DEI commit­tees at the faculty/​administration and board levels. We rewrote our mission state­ment to explic­itly state our commit­ment to diver­sity, equity, and inclu­sion and have engaged in much faculty profes­sional devel­op­ment. We have estab­lished a BIPOC affin­ity group for high school students and have formed a white anti-racist student group to guide white students in self-reflec­tion and anti-racist work. BIPOC faculty are meeting in affin­ity space and white faculty are also working together in white anti-racist affin­ity groups; this work is informed by stories that BIPOC students have shared in meet­ings with faculty and admin­is­tra­tive members of the DEI Commit­tee and addi­tional anony­mous written feed­back that BIPOC students have provided. Curricu­lum and mate­ri­als have been reviewed and substan­tially revised through the lens of DEI. The school recog­nizes that profes­sional devel­op­ment and curricu­lum review are ongoing efforts and we embrace the chal­lenge to go deeper in our work each school year.

We share these initial steps with the full under­stand­ing that we still have a great deal of work ahead of us. The @thewaverlyway Insta­gram account is a stark and impor­tant reminder of all that still must be done. There is one specific post that is being urgently addressed due to the nature of the alle­ga­tion. We are taking this matter very seri­ously and are actively working to resolve it. Our board of trustees has reached out to the BIPOC affin­ity group at the high school to request a meeting to ensure that student voices are heard and listened to at the gover­nance level of the school. With the under­stand­ing that the school and our fami­lies need to work together to raise anti-racist chil­dren and adoles­cents, we are forming a parent educa­tion commit­tee with the goal of provid­ing DEI parent educa­tion and estab­lish­ing parent affin­ity spaces in the 2020 – 2021 school year. We recog­nize the need to thor­oughly revise our inci­dent proto­cols and to consis­tently employ restora­tive justice strate­gies to address harms. We are research­ing train­ing for faculty and admin­is­tra­tion in the restora­tive justice approach. We will share more about our ongoing efforts and new initia­tives in August.

We under­stand that the work of disman­tling systemic racism requires daily conscious effort by insti­tu­tions and indi­vid­u­als. We pledge to do that work, inspired by and for our students, now and in the future.

Sincerely,

Heidi Johnson
Head of School