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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) Audit Update

Juliette Olejnik
We are pleased to be able to share an update about the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) audit that occurred during the 2021-2022 school year. In your roles as alumni, former faculty and staff, and alumni parents, you have distinctly shaped the Roeper School community and this update affords an opportunity extend my continuing gratitude for your convictions and offer our personal assurances on earning your continuing confidence. 
 
Led by Alison Park, founder of the highly regarded Blink Consulting, the audit was an extensive, independent “health checkup” that truly examined every part of our institution. This audit had four distinct components: 

  1. An initial institutional inventory conducted by the Multicultural Leadership Team and Board members to determine the priority focus areas for the audit. As a result of this process, the school chose to focus on three critical areas: (1) ethnicity and race, (2) socioeconomic status, and (3) ability and neurodiversity; 
  1. Surveys completed by students in grades 7-12, families, and staff and faculty; 
  1. 10 focus groups involving members of affinity groups within the community (five student and five adult groups); 
  1. 31 discovery groups. These included all members of the Roeper staff and faculty and examined every component of our school (for example, math, school trips, admissions, and discipline). 
As we begin our work together in moving forward from the audit results to a plan of action, we have shared several documents with the community. In addition to the Executive Summary shared at virtual community meetings in the spring, this new set of documents reflects the findings from the quantitative portions of all three surveys (students 7-12, families, and staff and faculty) and a summary of qualitative data captured from open-ended responses on the survey and information shared during the focus groups. In these results, Alison has given us a mirror to better examine Roeper, a reflection back of what we shared about our own experience in the community. We are confident that Alison was able to discern important trends and patterns in our strengths, challenges, and priorities.  
 
It is important to keep in mind that this audit was our chance to grow our understanding, strengthen our practices, and learn to be more intentional stewards of our philosophy.  As we shared last fall, it was never a trap to catch us in our struggles, but rather a moment to plan and to prioritize the policies and practices that will make us a better community. These results and recommendations are not an opportunity to point fingers or tear us apart, but an invitation to join together to build something stronger. That remains our focus and we are both excited and reassured that there are so many people in the Roeper community who are invested in doing that work with us. 
 
It would perhaps be remiss to offer these results without mentioning the context in which they are being shared. This audit started long before the racist incident that happened in the spring, but it brought into sharp focus how important it is that we take critical stock of Roeper as a community and an institution. We believe that we can all agree on two things. First, that we want these types of incidents to happen less often and to cause less harm, and second, because we may never be able to escape the oppression and bias that seem baked into our society, we want to respond competently and compassionately, and–perhaps most importantly–learn from them when they inevitably do happen. We have every confidence that the path forward utilizing these audit results will help us achieve both of those objectives. 
 
We are committed to action and an inclusive and transparent way forward. As part of that commitment, the school has already taken several steps: 

  • For our summer read, all faculty were provided with a copy of Start Here, Start Now, by anti-bias and anti-racism educator Liz Kleinrock to provide them with practical strategies for implementing this work in every classroom;   
  • As part of our back-to-school week preparations all staff and faculty participated in a workshop introducing them to restorative practices and offering ways to understand and address microaggressions, implicit bias and other incidents of bias. We will be scheduling further training in these areas over the course of the school year; 
  • The school’s Multicultural Leadership Team (MLT), which includes participation from administration, teachers, and parents, is currently working on the following projects about which we expect to share more details and seek feedback from the community this fall: 
    • a refined process for reporting and addressing incidents of bias, replacing the interim process that is currently in place; 
    • revised language in our community guidelines that makes clear the school’s position on acts of racism, bias, prejudice, and hate; and 
  • The MLT is also developing a scope and sequence for a multicultural curriculum related to diversity and justice that will be intentionally implemented at each stage or grade. 
To guide us in our longer-term efforts, we will be forming a committee of community constituents to ensure this work is prioritized and effective and to develop a plan to implement the recommendations of the audit in a way that is sustainable and reflective of the values of the Roeper community.  Where appropriate, we may consult outside experts to help guide us in this process.  There will be clear mechanisms and opportunities for interested community members to offer input to the committee and at other critical points in the process.  
 
We look forward to continuing this important work with all members of the Roeper community. 

Sincerely,
Christopher Federico, Head of School, and Carolyn Lett, Director of Diversity and Community Programs
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