Statement on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
The following statement is the collaborative intention of our Germantown Friends School community, created with the Germantown Monthly Meeting.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
As an educational and religious community grounded in the values of the Religious Society of Friends, GFS encourages and welcomes a range of experiences and perspectives. We seek to be an open community where multiple voices and experiences are heard.
At this time in our school, we intend to be mindful of the importance of religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, and socio-economic status in building an inclusive community. Our goal is to create an environment where important aspects of our collective and individual social identities are valued and where each member of the community feels included and heard. We recognize that our differences and commonalities provide the frameworks for how we can enrich our work in the classroom, on the playing fields, in performances, and in all aspects of school life. Diversity is an essential ingredient in the GFS education, empowering all of our students with life skills for a diverse world.
We call on all members of our school community to join together on a continuing learning path as we strive toward these goals.
Race, Culture & Ethnicity
In 1688, Friends in Germantown wrote and signed the first written protest against slavery in America. Their participation in this protest grew out of their historical commitment to human rights, a commitment grounded in Friends’ belief that God may speak through any human being. In America’s 17th century, to acknowledge the humanity of African-Americans and to protest their bondage was a profoundly anti-racist stance for the time. We have learned—in the centuries since that signing and despite the leanings toward equality intended by the Society of Friends—that it has been difficult, if not impossible, for anyone, including Quakers, to live in this society and not be tainted by racial prejudice and discrimination. More than three hundred years after the signing of that protest, the Meeting and the School seek to act on that continuing belief that God may speak through any of us and to translate this spiritual commitment to the ideal of racial equality.
At Germantown Friends School today, we intend to create a school community which supports the intellectual and spiritual growth of all of its members, working with and across our cultural, racial or ethnic backgrounds in a spirit of inclusion. We believe this can best be achieved by acknowledging that we do not live in an homogeneous nor a color-blind society. Furthermore, we have no desire to create one. Instead, we wish to understand, learn from, and embrace our differences through our curriculum and to build a school community that is inclusive of and knowledgeable about the diversity of cultures in the community around us. We intend to create opportunities where every student can engage in multiple perspectives pertaining to race, culture, and ethnicity. By our choice to remain in the urban, multiracial community of Germantown, we affirm that lessons of racial diversity will be a central manifestation of our commitment to Friends’ teachings.
Germantown Friends School intends to set forth an open door to all members of our multiracial school community and to the communities that individual students represent. One way that we began to achieve this vision was by seeking the enrollment of more students of color and actively seeking faculty of color and the knowledge and experiences that they bring. We intend for the perspectives of people of color to be constitutive of who we are as a community of learners. We also intend to involve all members of our community in understanding the meaning of diversity and the significance of our various racial identities in order to work towards a fully inclusive, equitable, and accountable multiracial community. We believe that these steps will reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and invigorating environment for cultural exchange and intellectual growth.
Arriving in America as religious outcasts seeking inclusive experiences of God, the Religious Society of Friends has sought religious freedom. Germantown Friends School is a Quaker school and is greatly enriched by the religious diversity of our school community. Because many faith traditions are represented in the practices of our families, the spiritual community of the school is indeed strengthened by a wide range of experiences and perspectives. Grounded in the belief that each person is endowed with a measure of the divine light, the Society of Friends values the many paths of spiritual pursuit represented in individual lives and in the world’s many faith traditions. We believe that religious diversity presents an opportunity for mutual education about our different and shared beliefs, values, and traditions.
As a school we seek to affirm the religious practices and observances of families and to avoid as much as possible conflict between religious holiday observance and school commitments. Faculty are encouraged to be proactive in planning assignments, tests, and school events mindful of religious holidays and will work with individual students when conflicts are unavoidable. With a written request from parents, students will be excused from or have school obligations modified for any religious holiday observances. The extent of our diversity prevents us from closing school for some holy days, but we will work with students as much as possible to allow their full participation in both school and family religious events.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Just as Germantown Friends School is enriched by a community comprised of different religions, races and ethnicities, it is also enriched by the fact that our students, parents, faculty, administrators and staff are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ), as well as heterosexual. The diversity of individuals and families represented in our school bring the richness and perspective of diverse sexual orientations to our school culture. Respect and appreciation for everyone, individuals and families, in all their variety and complexity, are guiding principles as we teach, study and play together and learn from each other.
GFS strives to create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ students, faculty, staff and parents while respecting personal preferences for involvement and openness. Toward that goal we endeavor to eliminate homophobia and to challenge heterosexism. We strive to be intentional and inclusive as we weave LGBTQ issues into our curriculum, in an age-appropriate manner.
We recognize that sexual orientation and gender expression and identity are distinct in the experience of individuals. In this knowing, we seek to be a safe and welcoming school for transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming students and adults, honoring the diversity of gender expression. We seek to avoid insensitive gender assumptions, and to support all in their individual expression of gender and identity.
Given that class stratification is a reality of the United States, a family’s socioeconomic status or class identity can contribute a substantial source of experience and perspective to the school community. GFS attempts to bring together students and families based on shared interests, talents and values and to acknowledge the significance of differences in income and/or wealth in our community. As we do so, we attempt to deal honestly with the societal tensions among the poor, working class, middle class, and the wealthy and to have our school community benefit from the knowledge and experiences of students whose families may struggle economically alongside those who may be economically privileged.
We affirm our commitment to be an economically diverse community, finding value in both our class differences and in our shared experiences. We aspire to support our families by increasing the pool of available financial aid.
A Loving Diverse Community
The ultimate challenge to Germantown Friends School–our country and the world–is to simultaneously embrace our common humanity and our differences, our understanding that we are equal as children of God, and that we are, individually and collectively, part of a larger community where we are called to love others and to be loved by them.