Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice
in the Lower School
The purpose of our diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) work in the Lower School is wide-ranging:
- To intentionally support the healthy identity development of all students
- To enable all students to feel culturally sustained by their school experience
- To make it possible for all students, employees, and families to experience a consistent sense of ownership—beyond inclusion, beyond belonging—in the School community
- To equip students with the understanding and skills they need—right now and into the future—to make sense of an unequal world and work together to change it in age-appropriate ways
- To make it possible for all students to develop a sense of individual empowerment as well as a deep appreciation for the interdependence of communities, both of which are ultimately key for social change
- To support the adults in the community to work together to dismantle the systemic inequities in our institution
- To provide shared experiences, language, and sense of purpose for parents and employees
To be effective, we know that our DEIJ work must infuse every part of the community. It must be deep, comprehensive, and interconnected. With this in mind, we have devoted ourselves to four related areas: teaching and learning, identity and affinity programming, professional development, and parent engagement.
The Milton DEI Strategic Plan of 2019 ushered in a new phase of DEIJ work in the Lower School. In 2020, the Lower School convened a group of faculty, staff, administrators, and parents to implement the recommendations from the DEI Strategic Plan as well as feedback generously given by current and past community members whose identities have been marginalized at Milton. This implementation team worked on a weekly basis throughout the 2020–21 school year and continues its work today. Below are some of the major initiatives currently being implemented in the four areas of focus:
Teaching and Learning
- The Lower School has launched a comprehensive DEIJ curriculum K–5, which addresses each of the 20 social justice standards outlined by the organization Learning for Justice. This curriculum focuses on several key areas of elementary DEIJ learning, including anti-bias concepts and skills, racial literacy, and social justice.
- Weekly time has been set aside in the K–5 schedules for this curriculum.
- Faculty and administrators work together to connect the DEIJ curriculum with students’ learning experiences in social studies, specials classes, reading, writing, and mathematics.
Identity and Affinity Programming
- The Lower School offers a robust student affinity group program, scheduled during the school day, that seeks to engage all K–5 students in age-appropriate activities related to healthy identity development.
- During this rollout, the Lower School has engaged parents and employees in multiple checkpoints, to ensure that all adults in our community fully understand the purposes of the student affinity program and why it is so essential for all Lower School students.
- The 2021 Summer Read for parents and employees provided a collection of articles, videos, podcasts, and an FAQ all focused on affinity programming for elementary students.
Asian American / Pacific Islander. Open to all students who identify as Asian American / Pacific Islander. This group aims to develop and affirm a positive relationship to our racial identity, nurture an understanding of the different cultures represented in the Asian diaspora, and share common experiences around growing up AAPI in the United States.
Biracial/multiracial. Open to all students who identify as having a heritage of two or more different racial groups. This group seeks to provide an opportunity to explore
identity and what it means to be biracial/multiracial while deepening understanding of the individual and collective identity of the group as a whole.
Black/African American/ African Descent. Open to all students who identify as Black, African American, and of African Descent. This group seeks to build positive connections across individual cultural identities and build connections to the past and the present while deepening understanding of the individual and collective identity of the group as a whole.
Civic Ambassadors. Open to Lower School students of all social identities. Students in this group participate in civic initiatives and discussions (through the lens of DEIJ) that have an impact on them and our school community. Students participate in a range of developmentally appropriate dialogues about inclusion, justice, and allyship to then choose a topic and decide on a collective work, project, or initiative.
Girls Empowerment. Open to all female-identified students. This group seeks to create a space for all female-identifying students to come together to engage in important conversations, activities, and workshops regarding female empowerment.
Jewish Affinity is Open to all students who want to explore their Jewish identity. This group seeks to create a space for all students to come together to engage in important conversations, activities, and workshops.
Learning Diversity. Open to students with learning differences. In addition to creating community and sharing individual stories, this group aims to explore our own learning styles and create wholesome connections.
Latinx/Hispanic Heritage. Open to students who identify as Latinx/Hispanic. This group seeks to foster a strong sense of community by promoting the cultural vibrancy of Latin America and other Spanish Speaking countries. Students will explore their own identities and shared experiences as it relates to their own culturally diverse backgrounds as well as gain a better understanding of how to relate to others in new and healthy ways.
South Asian & Middle Eastern Affinity Group. Open to all students who are from one of the Middle Eastern countries and/or have Middle Eastern heritage & South Asian identity. This group will include diverse students who seek to build relationships and connections through shared traditions, history, food, and culture.
White Identified. Open to all white-identified students. Through storytelling, cultivating empathy, and forming close relationships, this group explores identity and what it means to create an equitable, and inclusive community. Students will engage in a variety of age-appropriate discussions related to inclusion, justice, and allyship.
- Lower School faculty, staff, and administrators have engaged in several forms of professional development designed to prepare them to facilitate student affinity groups and implement DEIJ curriculum effectively in the classroom.
- Dr. Sharon Ravitch, professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania and creator of Flux Pedagogy, supported Lower School employees in the areas of racial literacy, brave-space pedagogy, and radical compassion.
- Dr. Charlotte Jacobs, professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, shared her research on the experiences of BIPOC children in predominantly white institutions and supported employees to develop specific skills to create a more inclusive, equitable, and just learning community.
- Jaci Nelson, DEIJ practitioner, has provided a series of affinity group facilitator trainings for all Lower School employees.
- Lower School faculty, staff, and administrators also engage in adult affinity groups. In addition to being essential for our employees in their own right, the adult affinity groups also give them firsthand experience with being a participant and insight into the experiences of our students as they participate in their own affinity groups.
- With a focus on parent engagement, the Lower School has been able to provide multiple checkpoints for parents to understand the purposes of DEIJ work in the Lower School, especially as it relates to their children. These checkpoints have included grade-level parent meetings, parent virtual coffees, and speaker series. We will be able to continue to offer checkpoints throughout this school year.
- Parents and administrators have collaborated to design a multifaceted set of structures for parent engagement, enabling parents to participate in a mix of small and large group meetings, interactive sessions and presentations from experts, volunteer-based work, and whole community conversations.
- Thanks to the leadership of current Lower School parents during the 2020–21 school year, the Lower School has also been able to significantly expand the core group of parents dedicated to advancing DEIJ work in the community.