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. 

Multi-Year DEIS Goals

In 2021-2022 we made notable progress on our DEIS goals, including our anti-racist commitment (see DEIS Updates 8/24/2022). And, we will continue on this journey, taking measurable actions in the 2022-2023 school year. See current-year initiatives listed by goal below. While each initiative is noted just once, many are in service to several of our four major multi-year goals.

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  • Retention

    Increase retention and recruitment of employees from historically marginalized groups.
    • Improve access to–and equitable distribution of–professional growth funds. Create opportunities to bring learning back to the full adult community.
    • Establish and support adult affinity spaces. 
    • Refine onboarding process to ensure new employees are supported, feel connected, and have access to information and expectations.
    • Incorporate anti-bias training into all hiring manager preparation.
    • Continue to increase diversity of applicant pipeline through a variety of efforts including partnership with NEMNET, POCIS, and Carney Sandoe Diversity Outreach.
    • Continue to engage DEIS Council (students and adults) in hiring committees.
    • Establish a standard set of questions for use in the interview process to assess cultural competency and commitment to continued learning.
    • Clearly articulate and transparently benchmark progress toward the goal of having our student-facing adult community mirror our student body.

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  • Belonging

    Improve sense of belonging for students and employees from historically marginalized groups.
    • Expand Affinity Group opportunities for students and adults and create time within the school day for groups to meet.
    • Continue work with DEIS Interns to ensure student voice helps shape school-wide efforts (students may surface DEIS issues that are not visible to the adult community).
    • Revisit our religious/cultural holiday observance policy.
    • Support current student sense of belonging by diversifying our student body through strengthening our pipeline of applicants from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups.This will be done through deepening partnerships with community organizations, schools, and national organizations.

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  • Skill Development

    Increase anti-racism skill development, cultural competency, and capacity to engage in courageous conversations.
    • The school’s Teaching and Learning Committee will focus its efforts this year on culturally responsive classrooms.
      • Engage Dr. Liza Talusan, author of The Identity Conscious Educator, to facilitate all-faculty professional development sessions on culturally responsive classrooms.
      • Partner with Dr. Talusan for in-depth professional development work with a small cohort of faculty and administrators (prior to the all-faculty session). This cohort will then help facilitate the all-school time with Dr. Talusan and support future work around culturally responsive classrooms.
      • Explore and pilot frameworks for creating culturally responsive classrooms (small group of faculty to pilot).
    • Through community meetings, advisory, and other adult and student gatherings, continue to deepen our school-wide commitment to SPACES (self-awareness, perspective, analysis and inquiry, cultural wisdom, empathy, and surroundings).
    • Develop a partnering with SURJ to help build capacity for anti-racist pedagogy for faculty in support of our ongoing adult and student White Anti-racist Group work.
    • Engage leadership coach and DEI consultant, Martha Haakmat, for strategic DEIS and anti-racism training for all trustees to ensure understanding and alignment, and to deepen their work on behalf of the school. 

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  • Curriculum

    Identify and address curriculum bias and gaps and ensure inclusion of historically underrepresented people, cultures, and perspectives.
    • Engage Upper School faculty in monthly meetings focused on understanding and implementing equitable grading practices.
    • Begin the work of creating culturally responsive classrooms (see skill development above). 
    • Work with DEIS interns (Upper School students) to identify DEIS-related content gaps in current course offerings, surface suggestions for future course offerings, and bring forward other DEIS-related classroom concerns.
    • The DEIS Office will continue to provide guidance and support to faculty around culturally competent curriculum and pedagogy.
    • Host first Upper School Equity & Inclusion Days (1.5 school days of required programming).
    • Build on last year’s Middle School DEIS efforts with the second ever Middle School Equity & Inclusion Night. Ensure at least one DEIS-specific Focus Day for each grade-level (in addition to including DEIS themes and lessons in many).

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 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 accountability 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). A new adult/employee BIPOC affinity group will be added in 22-23.
Asian Student Union
Black Student Union
Jewish Affinity Group (Jew Crew)
LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group (Alphabet Soup)
Mixed Race Affinity Space
Muslim Student Group
Neurodiverse Student Group
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.