For Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) this week, Bonnie Martinez's Literatura en Español (Literature in Spanish) class put together beautiful ofrendas (altars honoring the dead) in the Main Hall honoring famous Spanish literary figures.
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
Westridge was built on a mission to provide gender equity in education. Today, we draw upon the spirit of our founder, Mary Lowther Ranney, to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on our campus. These essential components of the Westridge program are imperative to the wellness of students in underrepresented populations and central to academic excellence for all Westridge students.
We are actively working to:
- Identify and eliminate biases and gaps in our programs and policies.
- Make the programmatic changes and do the community-wide education and growth necessary to make Westridge a school where all students, families, and faculty and staff feel they belong and are affirmed, valued, and supported.
- Increase diversity of all kinds, especially racial and socioeconomic, because we know that all students benefit social emotionally and academically from learning in a more diverse environment.
DEI is one of four focus areas of our strategic plan published in January 2020, prioritizing resources of time and funding to make substantive and meaningful change at our school. Importantly, events in spring 2020 have energized many people across the generations of Westridge to join us in working for change. Recent conversations with Black members of the Westridge community have caused the School to reflect on who we have been and who we want to be moving forward. Additionally, we know our families have been impacted by anti-Asian prejudice during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that students of color, including Black and African American, Latinx, Multiracial, and Asian students, are having different experiences at Westridge. Students deserve to be in a learning environment where racism is explicitly addressed, and white students must understand their role in challenging racism and how they can be advocates for change.
Students deserve to be in a learning environment where racism is explicitly addressed, and white students must understand their role in challenging racism and how they can be advocates for change.
Our Current Work
On August 15, 2021, we released a second update on our work in diversity, equity, inclusion—a companion to our update released in November 2020. The update includes our work to improve school culture through policy changes, community education, and grassroots efforts; increased support for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) students; training on best practices for consistency of anti-bias and DEI practices in teaching; expansion of our network of organizations helping us increase representation in and support of our faculty/staff and student populations; and more. Please click below to read it in full.
We asked our teachers how they have recognized the culture, history, and contributions of Hispanic Americans during Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month in their classrooms. Classes in Lower and Middle School from arts to technology have linked curriculum to the observance of the month, September 15-October 15, and to the celebration of Día de los Muertos, which takes place November 1-2.
Last month, Counselor Sheri Johnson and Human Development Teacher and Co-Dean of Student Voices Regina Wei established a new support group for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students at Westridge.
“You have to see it to be it,” is a motto Middle School Coding & Game Design Teacher Sally Miller frequently repeats to her students, and this year the 7th and 8th graders are diving deeper into issues of representation in STEM fields than ever before.
Westridge is thrilled to announce the appointments of two, director-level administrators as part of the implementation of the 2020-2025 Westridge Strategic Plan. Ian Tatum will join us as director of equity, leading our school-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. James Evans will join us as director of teaching and learning.
I write to add my voice to the chorus calling for an end to violence and racism against people of Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander descent following this week’s horrific murders in Atlanta. I use the word “chorus” intentionally because it takes many voices together to fight racism and Americans have been silent too long on racism directed at those of Asian heritage. This is true of us at Westridge as well.
In a follow-up to our October student assemblies on microaggressions (which covered what microaggressions are and how they affect our community), Director of Lower & Middle School Dr. Zanita Kelly and facilitator and culturally responsive teaching expert Ian Tatum led another series of assemblies on how to respond to and disrupt microaggressions in the moment they occur.
As we continue our work to expand the voices and perspectives in our curriculum, we asked our teachers how they are recognizing Black History Month in the classroom. Classes from grades 4 to 12 and from the arts to math have linked curriculum to the observance of the month. In addition, many faculty members commented that their work this month is part of a year- or semester-long approach.
In lieu of the traditional dragon and lion dances Lower School students perform annually for Lunar New Year, this year the Student Activities & Leadership Council (SALC) joined forces with Middle Schoolers to host an all-school assembly on the origins and traditions of the holiday.
Upper School Student Voices—a student-leadership group that addresses topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice—explored activism in art in two Martin Luther King Jr. Day assemblies this month.
Upper School Student Voices hosted their first assembly of the year last week entitled “Black at Westridge.” The assembly was a testimonial-based presentation that gave students a chance to hear from Black and African American students, alumnae, faculty, and staff about what it is like to be Black at Westridge.
On Monday, Upper School Student Voices co-heads Danielle D. ’21 and Olivia Q. ’21 hosted a panel discussion with three emerging Los Angeles civic leaders about systemic racism and racial and gender equity from their personal and professional experiences.
We are grateful for your urgent calls for comprehensive, institutional change at Westridge. Through your Instagram posts on BlackatWestridge, emails and letters, and a series of conversations we have had individually and with groups of Black and African American community members, we have heard of the scarring effects of racism on our campus.
The October 14 Westridge Wednesday divisional assemblies were each devoted to the topic of microaggressions: What are they? What is their impact on students? What should be our commitment to interrupting microaggressions in our community?
This summer, senior Kathleen C. watched as incidents of anti-Asian racism continued to escalate following the spread of COVID-19. She formed an organization called Vocal Asians for Change — a “youth-organized movement dedicated to speaking out against racism in our communities.”