Signature Programs

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Social Justice

Athenian's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Social Justice

Fulfilling our school mission requires being an equitable and inclusive community that reflects a wide range of identities, lived experiences, and perspectives. Our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice (DEIS) work is in service to this belief, helping to create an environment where all members of the community thrive. 

We call upon all of our students, families, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees to actively engage in this work both individually and collectively. And, as an institution of learning, we will work to ensure our programs and curriculum reflect the diversity of our community and the world, including the experiences and perspectives of varied race, national and/or ethnic origin, socioeconomic class, faith, political affiliation, physical abilities, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. We acknowledge that there is much work to be done and that conflicts may arise in the co-creation of a just and equitable community; we see these conflicts as opportunities for restoration, growth, and learning. We invite you to join us on this journey. 

In 2020, Athenian made the following commitment to become an anti-racist school.

We, Athenian, condemn racism, discrimination, and bigotry in all forms. Acknowledging that racism is systematic and self-perpetuating, we are counteracting racism by identifying and dismantling the systems--policies, practices, and cultural norms-- that may be perpetuating racial inequities at Athenian. While our work will be centered on enacting change at Athenian, we will engage our entire community in the process thereby educating young people equipped to advocate for racial equity in their own communities and throughout their lives. 

We made notable progress and admittedly fell short on some of our anti-racist initiatives last year (see DEIS progress 20-21). We commit to continue on this journey, taking measurable actions in the 2021-2022 school year within the framework of our broader DEIS goals.

Multi-Year DEIS Goals

*Current year action steps are listed under each goals*

List of 1 items.

  • Retention

    Increase retention and recruitment of employees from historically marginalized groups.

    21-22 Action:
    Students’ sense of belonging is inextricably linked to having supportive adults with a shared identity/affinity. Foundational to improving the student experience is creating a more diverse adult community. We will take the following steps:
    • Engage with current staff and faculty from historically marginalized groups to learn from their experiences at Athenian and the impact on retention. 
    • Ensure continued professional growth of historically marginalized groups through ongoing learning and mentorship opportunities.

    • Establish benchmarks to measure and set yearly and multi-year goals to increase retention and recruitment of faculty and staff from historically marginalized groups. 

    • Leverage relationships with our DEIS Council, alumni and current families to deepen hiring pipeline through outreach to area colleges, universities and community based organizations. 

    • Implement anti-bias training for all hiring managers. Examine our hiring process to ensure consistently equitable and inclusive hiring practices.

List of 1 items.

  • Belonging

    Improve sense of belonging for students and employees from historically marginalized groups.

    21-22 Action:
    Skill development must go hand-in-hand with an understanding of the current experience of our students and employees as well as standard qualitative and quantitative measures for assessing these experiences over time. We will take the following steps toward improving the sense of belonging for our employees and students from historically marginalized groups:
    • Hold listening sessions with employees and students from historically marginalized groups.
    • Utilize the data from our Student Inclusion Dashboard survey to benchmark the student experience and implement pulse surveys for our adult community. 

    • Clearly delineate the difference between Student Clubs and Affinity Groups in order to preserve the integrity of Affinity spaces. Simultaneously expand our Affinity Groups.

List of 1 items.

  • Skill Development

    Increase anti-racism skill development, cultural competency, and capacity to engage in courageous conversations.

    21-22 Action:
    Skill development and cultural competency begin with the adult community. Athenian will partner with the National Equity Project and take the following steps to further the capacity of our adult community:
    • Build capacity of school leadership, individually and collectively, to embody and carry out the work of creating an inclusive, equitable and anti-racist organization. 

    • Facilitate professional development with faculty and staff to build a common foundation of knowledge and shared vocabulary in order to do the transformative work ahead and create safe learning environments for students.

    • Equip faculty and staff with strategies to address micro-aggressions both with colleagues and between students.

List of 1 items.

  • Curriculum

    Identify and address curriculum bias and gaps and ensure inclusion of historically underrepresented people, cultures, and perspectives.

    21-22 Action:
    Examining what we teach is an ongoing priority of the school and we have committed to a full curriculum audit in Athenian’s latest strategic vision, Boldly Athenian (insert hyperlink). We will take the following steps to identify and address curriculum bias and gaps:
    • Develop a process and timeline to undertake a full 6-12 curriculum audit with a DEIS lens.

    • Take immediate steps to engage students in addressing curriculum gaps through the launch of an Upper School “DEIS In Action” seminar. This course is inspired by the long-standing “Democracy In Action” seminar and will provide an opportunity for student DEIS Interns to examine elements of our current curriculum with a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice lens and make suggestions for change. 

    • Launch additional experiential learning opportunities in the Middle School to grow cultural awareness and further integrate DEIS concepts such as a Middle School E&I night and a variety of advisory lessons.

The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Social Justice

A Team Approach

Athenian believes that upholding our commitments will take full community participation -- a team approach. Our Director of DEIS and Director of People & Culture will support school-wide DEIS efforts with students and employees, and our Board of Trustees has formed a DEIS committee to work in parallel, to support and ensure we continue to make progress and hold DEIS as a school priority. In addition, our Director of DEIS will facilitate the new DEIS Advisory Council which includes faculty and staff, and will work with 23 student DEIS interns to advise, advocate for and support our shared DEIS goals.

On Campus Affinity Groups

Athenian Upper School students are invited to participate in or help create affinity groups. These identity-based groups help foster community and are a vehicle for connection, advocacy, and support for students who identify as members of a historically marginalized group. Each group has its own unique mission and an adult advisor with a shared identity. 
In addition to the groups to the right, the school recently formed the  Athenian White Antiracist Group (AWAG), an affinity space for students, staff, faculty, and administrators who are white or have proximity to whiteness (self-identified) and are seeking to learn more about their whiteness and its relationship to antiracism (unlearning and relearning).
Asian Student Union
Athenian White Antiracist Groups 
Black Student Union
Jewish Affinity Group (Jew Crew)
LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group (Alphabet Soup)
Mixed Race Affinity Space
South Asian Representation

What is an Affinity Group?

Unlike student clubs that are organized around a shared passion and open to all, affinity groups are just for those with a shared identity background. As we explain to our students, “you know you are in the right affinity group if you can say unequivocally, I am __________ and can speak to that group’s collective identity and experience from the I and we perspective.”

Sanjev deSilva, Director of DEIS

Sanjev deSilva brings 20 years of experience in education, youth development, and community engagement to his role of Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice at Athenian. Along with being committed to empowering young people to lead and create change in their communities, he is committed to using restorative practices to steward Athenian into its DEIS goals and objectives. During his 7 years at Athenian, Sanjev has been a Humanities Teacher, BlendEd Instructor, Dorm Head, Basketball Coach and much more.