Just want to put us on the radar with the email we got from the administration at the beginning of the year.
July 30, 2020
Dear Parents, Guardians and Students,
At Stevenson High School, we are committed and determined to take bold action to support students that have been historically marginalized, muted, and mistreated; it is without equivocation that we must enhance our efforts to live by an anti-racist promise detailed in the Stevenson Vision and Values statement: Equity, Access and Inclusivity. Specifically,
In order to ensure “Success for Every Student,” we will recognize every student as a valued individual. Students will learn in a safe, inclusive space, where they are taught to understand the value of their own experiences in relation to other, diverse perspectives. We will be relentless in removing barriers to full equity, access, and inclusivity in our curricular and co-curricular programming.
We are very proud of the way our students have recently come together to support the national Black Lives Matter movement. Their actions exemplify our Portrait of a Patriot who: celebrates, honors, and respects diverse people and perspectives; and develops a sense of empathy for those around them. Stevenson’s faculty, staff and administration join our students in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Racism will not be tolerated and will be confronted at Stevenson High School. We will work relentlessly to ensure that our school is a safe and inclusive environment for all students, families, faculty and staff.
During these last few weeks we have heard from many of our students, parents and alumni who shared their thoughts on how to improve the Stevenson school experience for our students of color. Some consistent themes emerged from these conversations, which can serve as starting points for systemic changes:
1. Students of color want an effective way to communicate their feelings and experiences to the faculty, staff and administration.
2. It can be intimidating for our students of color to come forward and report to school officials when they experience discriminatory behavior or racial bias and harassment.
3. Parents and students want all of us to learn applicable life skills to support students of color and address negative interactions around race.
4. Students expressed a need to more fully represent the voices and stories of people of color and marginalized communities within our curriculum.
While we continue to reflect on our school culture, procedures, and policies, we are grateful for the commitment of our community to engage in discussions about equity, race, diversity, and inclusion as these conversations affect changes within and outside the walls of Stevenson.
What will be new for next year?
A new system to ensure that students of color can share their experiences to adults and other students in the building.
Our students of color have made it clear they would like to establish a better system to have their voices heard by faculty, staff and administrators at Stevenson High School. Students want to be able to tell their stories and relate the challenges they find in navigating Stevenson.
The Diversity Council will be expanding its role this year to create and facilitate conversations between student groups and adults in the building. Our goal is to build safe spaces that allow students to tell their stories to faculty, staff and administrators. To support these conversations, the Diversity Council will bring together students in both affinity and diverse groups. These student conversations will foster collaboration between students and adults to ensure Stevenson will continue to grow and serve every single student. Diversity Council will also partner with our clubs that represent different world cultures and affinity groups to create meaningful connections and conversations around the student experience at Stevenson.
The Diversity Council will also create heterogeneous student groups to help foster broader discussions about race, diversity and inclusion. Diversity Council will partner with our current student groups, F.I.R.E., Peer Helpers and the newly formed Stevenson Clubs for Change, to establish opportunities for student-led courageous conversations, student professional development and student-administrator forums providing student input around equity and inclusion into the daily culture of Stevenson.
A new protocol for reporting incidents of race-based offensive behavior.
In our conversations, students and parents have indicated that it can be intimidating and stressful to report incidents of racial bias or discriminiation to school faculty, staff and administrators. In an effort to remove any barriers from this process and ensure students feel safe in coming forward, we have redesigned the process for reporting and investigating incidents of racial bias, discrimination and hate speech.
When a student or parent wants to report racially motivated harassment or hate speech, they will be able to do so in one of two ways: they can speak directly to any adult they trust in the building or they can use our new online reporting system. The online reporting system will be available on our website and will be reviewed with freshmen during social worker visits to Advisory. We will post QR codes around the building on our safety posters to allow students easy access from their iPad. Students will also be able create these reports anonymously if they prefer.
Once a student or family makes a report of racial discrimination, the student’s social worker will:
1. Reach out, connect and listen to the student--first and foremost to provide care and support for the well-being of the student and family who has come forward;
2. Report expressed concerns to the relevant school officials to ensure the offensive behavior is confronted and stops immediately; and
3. Continue to support the student and family by developing a plan of support for the student and appropriate ways to follow up with the student and family, over the weeks following the incident to confirm the offending behavior has stopped and to ensure the well-being of the student.
Once a report has been made, school officials will investigate, meet with the offender and determine the appropriate consequences. We believe discipline should not only include behavioral consequences and loss of privileges, but also a learning experience for a student. To that end, we have developed a set of lessons around issues of race and discrimination that students will be required to complete as one part of any discipline consequence related to racial discrimination.
A new tool for confronting race-based offensive behavior.
While we missed out on many opportunities in the spring because of the pandemic, we were especially saddened that we needed to cancel our “Race, Equity and Diversity Day” for our Freshman students. Over 75 faculty and staff members developed a powerful educational experience for our students, one in which they could hear stories from around the building, but more importantly give students the tools they could use when confronted with offensive or insensitive comments or actions. Using the Social Justice Standards as a framework for learning, we created a series of learning opportunities for our freshman students through the daily Freshman Advisory program, the Freshman Race, Equity and Diversity Day and beyond, around the learning targets of identity, diversity, justice and action.
A critical takeaway from these lessons was to provide students with new and actionable skills for confronting offensive and inappropriate behaviors involving race. The planning committee identified “Speak up at School - How to Respond to Everyday Prejudice, Bias and Stereotypes” as a powerful tool for our students and teachers. This tool can be used by our students and staff so we can all speak up when we hear biased language or stereotypes in school. “Speak Up” provides students and teachers with 4 options for responding when confronted with offensive and/or biased encounters.
Interrupt: Speak up when you hear offensive language, every time you hear it. “I don’t like what you said. Your language is hurtful.”
Question: Ask the person a question to begin a discussion about their language. “Why did you say that? What did you mean?”
Educate: Explain why the term or statement is offensive. “Do you know where that word comes from? Do you know the history of that word?”
Echo: If someone else speaks up, back them up. “I agree that is offensive and unacceptable.”
The Freshman Race, Equity and Diversity lessons in the Freshman Advisory program and the Freshman Equity Day and beyond would have provided students with the opportunity to practice using the “Speak Up” protocol in various scenarios. It is our intention to present this tool to our students in the upcoming year through the Freshman Advisory Program and with their SSTs, providing students opportunities to apply these skills in scenarios in remote learning and when we eventually return to the school building.
How do we continue to learn and educate our faculty, staff and school leaders?
In our recent conversations with students, parents and alumni, we have also recognized our failure to educate our community in the work we have already done to increase the cultural and racial responsiveness of our faculty, staff and administrators. Noted below is a short summary of the work that we have done the past few years to improve in the area of equity, race and diversity.
We know it can be challenging to engage in conversations around race, bias and privilege. For the past three years, our faculty, staff and administrators have engaged in professional development and training to understand themselves as racial and cultural human beings. They have also learned how to uncover and disrupt in themselves, and in others, racial assumptions and biases in their thinking and professional practice. By doing this work, and deeply investing in this personal and professional learning, it is the expectation that all faculty and staff are responsible and accountable for ensuring Stevenson is an inclusive learning environment where racial intolerance and harassment are not tolerated. This professional development has occurred through attending Beyond Diversity training, Stevenson adult learning cadres, division professional development, and the 2019 Consortium Institute Day.
Equity, Race and Diversity (ERD) & Professional Learning: Professional learning focused on equity, race, and diversity is a three year learning sequence designed for faculty, staff and administrators to understand and take action around issues of equity, race and diversity within themselves, their practice and the systems within which they live and work in order to create a more inclusive learning environment for all students at Stevenson. We have chosen the Courageous Conversations™ protocols and agreements (CCAR) as a framework for this learning. Each learning year consists of 5 double period sessions per year. (Total of 15 two-hour sessions over 3 years.) The arc of this curriculum, along with learning targets that are evolving as our school community learns more, have been written and are continuously reviewed by the ERD Curriculum Advisory Committee and the ERD Steering Committee.
Faculty Cadre One: The focus in year one is Racial & Cultural Identity Formation: Understanding Self as a Racial and Cultural Being. The learning focuses on understanding self and self-reflection to begin one’s racial autobiography learning to listen and lean into our colleagues’ and students' lived racial & cultural journeys. Stevenson student outcome data is used as the foundation for the compelling “why” behind this work. The year 1 anchor text is: So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
Faculty Cadre Two: The focus in year two is Racial & Cultural Acceptance and Application to Professional Practice: Creating Inclusive Learning Spaces through Culturally Relevant Practices. We introduce the Social Justice Standards and how these standards can be a framework for reexamining our teaching practices and curriculum. We connect the work to the SEL competency of belongingness unpacking the impact of microaggressions, implicit bias and racial harassment on student learning. The anchor texts for year 2 are: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and/or Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. These texts challenge our faculty’s mindsets while making connections to ourselves, our work and our professional practices.
Faculty Cadre Three: The focus in year three is: Racial & Cultural Adaptation: Using the Lens of Equity, Race and Inclusion for Systems Analysis to Create an Inclusive School Climate for All Students. In each session we uncover the questions and assumptions that affect our professional practice with colleagues, students and parents. Using Stevenson student data (academics, student voice surveys, college experiences, discipline, etc.), cadre members uncover issues of practice they want to explore. Then cadre members share their action research and collaborate with curricular team members to problem-solve and disrupt past discriminatory practices and create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for students and families. The anchor texts for year 3 are: Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Lewis and Diamond and/or How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
Consortium Institute Day: In the spring of 2019, Stevenson hosted a consortium-wide Equity, Race and Diversity professional institute day with our sender district partners from D102, D013, D96, and the Exceptional Learners Collaborative (ELC). Over 1200 educators from across these districts came together to have an honest discussion around issues related to race and equity in our community. After a keynote address led by DeEtta Jones (Next Generation Leadership), sessions during the Institute focused on the following topics:
• Moving from microaggressions to more inclusive language;
• Why talking about race is so difficult;
• Understanding bias and reducing its negative impact; and
• Creating cogenerative dialogues in the classroom - way to include the narratives of all students.
Administrative Team Professional Development: Over the past four years the administrative team has engaged in learning and then leading the learning within their respective divisions around topics of equity, race, diversity and inclusion. In particular the administrative team has undertaken opportunities which have focused on: using Stevenson student data to create a compelling “why” statement for our work focused on race; strategies for facilitating learning within different divisions and academic teams; preparing each division for the February 2019 consortium-wide institute day on equity, race, diversity and inclusion; and how to make actionable, responsive changes.
Equity, Race and Diversity Steering Committee: A group of parents, teachers, SST members, Board of Education members and administrators meets four times a year to listen and learn from each other around issues of equity, race and diversity. This group provides multiple perspectives in creating learning experiences for faculty and students at Stevenson.
Division Specific Work: Supporting the ERD learning cadres, and leading up to and beyond the Consortium-Wide Institute Day, each of our curriculum divisions have dedicated time and resources to examine teaching, learning and curriculum. The goal of this work is to incorporate diverse narratives and viewpoints into the teaching fabric of Stevenson so that all students can see their learning as relevant to and for their lived experiences. Below are a few examples of this specific divisional work:
• Equity and Inclusivity have proven to be a large focus for this division as it takes on the responsibility of normalizing diversity in the content (namely, texts) we study. The division has created a set of three learning targets around equity, race and diversity, set a division goal of seeing that a majority of major texts taught in the division feature diverse authors and stories by the end of 2021, and begun training teams on how to frame and integrate diversity-infused lessons.
• Teachers conducted a Literature Review of the AP US History Textbook from an Asian Critical Race Theory lens and changed the text for the 20-21 school year to provide a full narrative of the contributions of Asian Americans in US history. The Director and the AP US History Team prepared a presentation for the National Council of Social Studies on literary analysis and inquiry activities used to respond to the dearth of Asian American inclusion in many history texts. Additionally, race and diversity are explicit elements of the curriculum in History, Government/Civics, Sociology, Geography, and Constitutional Law courses.
Who will support us in our work?
As we continue our focus and our commitment to equity, race, diversity and inclusion, we believe systemic, institutionalized change is the responsibility of every Stevenson administrator, faculty member and staff member. Moving forward with our work in these areas, we want to be more intentional in our commitments and more directed in the changes we need to make. To that end, we are excited to share that Dr. LeViis Haney will be joining our team as our new Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Dr. Haney has over 19 years of experience in education, including 16 years as a school leader. He started his career as a classroom teacher and athletic coach at the middle and high school levels. Dr. Haney has also served as an athletic director, elementary school assistant principal and K-12 principal. He has most recently served as principal at The Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth, Illinois, and Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields, Illinois.
Dr. Haney will work alongside the Stevenson administrative team to: (1) make important decisions related to revisions of school policy and procedures; (2) support the professional learning of faculty and staff; (3) guide insights into practices related to teaching and learning; (4) advocate for students from diverse backgrounds; (5) collaborate with administration to recruit, hire, and mentor additional faculty of color; and, (6) evaluate and advise needed changes to insure that Stevenson’s school culture promotes the values of diversity and inclusion. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Haney to the Stevenson High School team!
How can you help?
As parents and guardians, you are essential partners in our work. Noted above are the books faculty, staff and administrators are reading in each adult learning cadre to acquire new racial and cultural knowledge, cultural awareness and racial competency skills. These books are available at your local library and in our school library. We invite you to read one or more of these selections and discuss your learning with your student and others in your neighborhood. Likewise, we invite you to attend upcoming events Stevenson co-sponsors in partnership with the Family Action Network (F.A.N.). And always, we invite you to email or call us to engage in a critical conversation around the work we are doing to create a more inclusive environment for all students at Stevenson.
In the last few months, our county, community, school and students have experienced illness, changes in the way we live and “do school,” and racial hurt and trauma. Due to Covid-19, we have not been able to walk down the hall and reach out and “be there for our students”. This makes our work difficult - but not impossible. Our students look to us to teach them the skills necessary to engage in courageous conversations about race, equity and inclusion with their peers and the adults in their lives. Our students look to us to provide opportunities for meaningful discussions based on a fully told narrative of our country’s history and current events. Our students look to us, the adults at Stevenson, to lead them and our community in making Stevenson a more inclusive environment for each and everyone of them. We are committed to anti-racist work at Stevenson High School.
Thank you for your support as we continue the relentless pursuit of our mission of Success for Every Student.
Eric Twadell, PhD
Director of Student Services
Submitted: Dec 23, 2020