Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Asheville Waldorf School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is made up of faculty and parents of our community. Anyone who is interested in this work may join.
We strive to actively address issues of discrimination and inequity in our school community; to dismantle systems of oppression within our school, organized on the basis of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and/or religious affiliation; to hold our school, as an institution, accountable to the highest standards of equity and inclusion; to always seek ways to better prepare our students to engage in the long fight to end injustice and inequity in the broader world; & to take whatever measures necessary to identify and challenge White Supremacy culture as it manifests in school policy, curriculum, and praxis.
Our praxis for achieving our mission is in development; at this time, we have identified three primary objectives: 1) to educate the school’s faculty and staff on the necessity of the work of this committee, generating broad-based support for its work 2) to exhort the school enroll all faculty in anti-oppression trainings, particularly around and relating to racism in Asheville, the opus of Steiner’s writing, and society at large & 3) to recommend changes to school policy and curriculum on the basis of research and dialogue conducted by this committee.
TheDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is available to receive any reports of discrimination based on the premise of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and religious affiliation. We can assist in mediating any conflict that a child may experience at school or a parent may experience in the school community. We are also open to hearing any feedback or ideas from the parent body.
Please contact the committee chair : Annie Balagur firstname.lastname@example.org
Belonging - Essay
By: Jackie Denton (AWS Parent and DEI Committee Member)
Dear AWS Community,
“A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror or each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.”
The last several weeks the DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) Committee has been facilitating a faculty study around the theme of belonging. We have been exploring the question of how do we create a sense of belonging for all individuals within our school community? In thinking about this question, we started by exploring the theme of gender, and in the next study plan to focus on race and neurodiversity, as well as considering intersectionality (although there are of course many other facets to identity that could also be explored). We wanted to open this conversation up to the larger community body and ask you to consider how we can all strive towards ensuring we are creating a sense of belonging for all members of our community? How are we modeling the value of inclusivity when talking with our children and in our interactions with others? Are we leading with curiosity and celebrating the differences we notice between ourselves and others? Are we acknowledging and exploring our own resistances to certain differences?
It has been more challenging to connect with other members of our community this year due to Covid-19. We have not had as many opportunities to get to know and interact with all members of our community as we normally would. We may not even know all of the students in our own children’s classes. Keep this in mind as your children bring home stories about other students. Stay curious. Notice what narratives (positive or negative) they may be forming about others and help them question where those are coming from and where there may be holes in their understanding of others.
In the past there has been a tendency in our society towards ignoring differences when talking to children. However, research shows us that children tend to notice differences related to identity such as gender, race, and neurodiversity, from a very early age. When we don’t engage in conversation about these differences we may be inadvertently sending a message that there is something wrong with noticing and talking about differences. The current understanding in race conscious parenting is that it is important to encourage age appropriate conversations early and often about race and other differences (as well as similarities) starting with young children. These conversations can celebrate differences while also acknowledging the reality of how differences may shape individuals’ lives.
When thinking about differences, it is also important to remember that there are some differences that are easily observed, and others that may be harder to observe (such as gender preference, neurodiversity, or ancestry). We have also been discussing how there are some things about our identities that are more fixed (such as race) and other things that are more fluid and may change over time as children grow and become more aware of themselves, such as gender identity, and sexual preference.
One of the goals of the DEI committee is to help cultivate a space where all people feel comfortable expressing their authentic selves and identities as they experience them and as they evolve. In order to achieve this, we believe it is important to create a space that challenges norms and reflects diversity. For example, a teacher including characters in stories that are non-binary in addition to gendered characters, helps normalize non-binary gender identity to the students in that class. It may also help a non-binary student feel more comfortable with embracing their identity as it becomes clear to them, as well as feel more safe sharing it with their peers and teachers in the future.
A culture of belonging begins in the heart of each individual. What we each contribute to the community comes from the source of our own sense of belonging. Creating a community where everyone feels a sense of belonging is not a simple task, but it is something we wish to strive for. The DEI committee invites each member of our community to ponder what your role is in helping ensure that each soul is finding it’s reflection in our community?
Note: If you are interested in engaging in this conversation more, please feel free to reach out!
I personally am constantly learning and growing in this area and experimenting with how to hold these kinds of conversations with my children in a more meaningful way.
Neurodiversity individual differences in brain functioning regarded as normal variations within the human population (Definition from: Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Intersectionality: the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups
[Kimberlé] Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality, the idea that when it comes to thinking about how inequalities persist, categories like gender, race, and class are best understood as overlapping and mutually constitutive rather than isolated and distinct.
— Adia Harvey Wingfield (Definition from: Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Race conscious parenting: A style of parenting that explicitly and openly talks about race. For more information and resources see: www.raceconscious.org
Non-binary “Most people – including most transgender people – are either male or female. But some people don’t neatly fit into the categories of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man or a woman, or a gender that is different than either male or female. Some people don’t identify with any gender. Some people’s gender changes over time.
People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.” (Definition from: National Center for Transgender Equality)
In Solidarity - June 2020
Due to recent and ongoing events, we at the Asheville Waldorf School choose to unequivocally reaffirm our mission to strengthen our sense of moral responsibility and actively living out our values which includes empowering our students to act with courage and conviction as we condemn all acts of hate and racism. It also means we need to confront how much work we have to do as a school community. We are in the process of developing concrete action steps to become a safer community for children, families, and educators.
We share in the sorrow, anger, and grief that is felt across our country. We stand in solidarity with the Black community and the Black Lives Matter Movement. We mourn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade (he/him), and all Black victims of police brutality and white supremacy since the establishment of the police and this country. We recognize that brave activists all across the country are on the frontlines of this movement and we deplore and denounce the police brutality they are encountering daily.
We believe an inclusive and safe community is essential to a complete and whole education. From its beginning, Waldorf education has rooted its foundation in social renewal. As Waldorf educators, we hold the dignity and of life at the center of our work. It is our responsibility to bear witness to what is happening in the world and in our community, to elevate the voices of marginalized people, to change the course of inequities through self-education and continued action, and to break down structural prejudice in all forms where it exists, particularly in Waldorf education, here at Asheville Waldorf School, and in ourselves.
Our Administration as well as our Diversity and Equity Committee are actively seeking ways to keep ourselves as a school trained and informed on issues of racial equality and all areas where equality has yet to be achieved. We see it as pertinent to diversify our curriculum, as well as our teaching staff, and actively strive for an inclusive and safe school culture. We are committed to action and involvement in our own community and participating in the larger movement to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion in this country and the world.
Asheville Waldorf School Faculty and Staff
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Educating the whole child, in mind, body, and spirit,
for a life of continuous learning
and meaningful engagement with the world.
ASHEVILLE WALDORF SCHOOL
531 Haywood Road
Asheville, NC 28806
Main office: 828.575.2557