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Movement raises awareness of discrimination at private, prep schools

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Posted at 4:40 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 16:40:13-04

An online movement is raising awareness about the discrimination some high school students face at private and prep schools.

One of many social media pages highlighting the issue is Black at Lovett. The organizers are two alumni who have taken submissions from students, parents and faculty, and share their experiences at the The Lovett School anonymously. Some of the stories go back decades.

“I guess one of the things that was kind of surprising, but also we all knew what was going on, was that we all shared a lot of the same stories and a lot of the same experiences with the same students, the same administrators, the same teachers,” said Allison Burns, co-creator of Black at Lovett.

The alumni have worked together using experiences from their current jobs to offer policy recommendations to Atlanta school and the community.

“We want to make this better for future black students who attend this school, and that's the driving force behind this and why we want this to be an effort of love, a labor of love in some ways,” said Ashley Jeffrey, co-creator of Black at Lovett.

Another page, True Colors of Columbia, highlights stories from Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School in New York. The co-creators just graduated and echo what they say needs to be done to help the next generation at these institutions.

“How many more discussions with the administration, petitions, and emails and meetings do we need to have until kids aren't being told that they're going to be lynched?” asked Lauren Gloster, co-creator of True Colors of Columbia.

While grateful for the education, the girls say they've felt the need to step in to help peers better understand racial differences. They're also worried current students might not speak up for fear of losing scholarships.

“We all felt very compelled to not only create a safe platform where students like us could share their experiences and their stories but could also feel a sense of unity and community as well,” said Imani Camara, co-creator of True Colors of Columbia.

We reached out to both schools.

Lovett sent us a statement saying they don't want anyone to feel silenced due to their identity. They're taking part in the dialogue and will use recommendations from a committee for the upcoming school year. Read their statement below:

“The Lovett School does not condone racism, nor do we want any member of our community to feel silenced due to their identity. We have engaged in a concerted effort to listen to many voices and engage in direct dialogue. All of these conversations will help inform the initial recommendations from our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee for the upcoming school year. We look forward to working together to take action to ensure that every child entrusted to us feels valued, heard, and a sense of belonging to The Lovett School.”

Columbia's head of school, Dr. William M. Donohue, says they're reading posts on the account, acknowledging and apologizing for systemic racism. They say they've hired a diversity consultant and laid out action steps. Read the school’s statement below:

We at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School are reading the posts on the Instagram account @truecolorsofcolumbia. We are grateful for the courageous actions taken by our students and alumni for sharing their experiences and concerns. These are sobering and shocking reports to hear, and we are listening. Systemic racism exists at CGPS, and we apologize that we did not provide an inclusive and equitable environment for our BIPOC students and alumni. It is unacceptable.

The most crucial response we at CGPS can make is to act. We have completed a major step forward by hiring Martha Haakmat, a DEI consultant with 34 years of experience in NYC independent schools, to direct our diversity plan. Her involvement will ensure that our actions are comprehensive, long term, cover policy as well as faculty and staff training, and have built-in, direct accountability.

At CGPS, it is clear that we have important and long overdue work ahead. We are ready and committed.

Our action steps now:
· Reaching out to our entire community to draw attention to the @truecolorsofcolumbia Instagram account and outlining a new commitment to creating and improving our DEI practices
· Meetings between the administration and MECA (Multi-Ethnic Cultural Awareness) Student Leaders to make needed changes in our curriculum
· Engaged a DEI consulting expert to advise the School for long-term systemic change
· Creating a Board of Trustees Committee for DEI
· Commitment to expanding our recruitment practices and increasing BIPOC faculty
· Scheduled faculty and staff DEI training before the start of the upcoming school year
· Commitment to faculty and staff participation at the NAIS People of Color Conference