Equity and Belonging
Our community is fortified by equity, access, inclusion, and belonging for all. At Westtown School, we aspire to be an inclusive community of belonging and we are committed to learning and growing together. We provide opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom for this growth as well as professional development for faculty and staff in anti-bias and anti-racism (ABAR) work. This work appears in our educational programs, our people, and in our policies and practices. Here are just a few examples:
Westtown offers curricula in all divisions that focus on developing students’ awareness of and competency in anti-bias and anti-racism, identity, inclusion, and belonging.
- The Upper School curriculum includes a variety of offerings that focus on African American, Latinx, and Asian American history, experience, identity, and literature, as well as offerings in world religions and social justice. unconscious bias, contemporary racism, and more.
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Deep Dive Certificate is an academic option for Upper School students who wish to study, conduct research about, and create projects on these topics.
- Throughout the school year, students learn about and celebrate BIPOC and historically marginalized groups of people through special programming, assemblies and events, and Community Dinners.
- Multicultural College Fair & Conference: Hosted by Westtown School and Families for Multicultural Community, this event invites students and families from diverse racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds from more than 100 independent schools, charter schools, and community-based organizations.
- Student Diversity Leadership Conference: Westtown sends a contingent of Upper School students to this NAIS conference every year.
- An International Student Coordinator, a host program that pairs both international students and boarding students from a distance with local host families, and special programming and events throughout the year, are some of the ways in which we support our international students.
- Advisory and homeroom curricula include equity and inclusion programming. Students have discussions about empathy, identity, language, race, and gender.
- Learning about geography through the lens of equity, 6th grade Social Studies students study a variety of map styles, Mercator, Mollweide, Peterson, Robinson, and talk about how each projection brings with it a different perspective and a different distortion of the world.
- In 6th grade, advanced math students calculate percentages of the composition and changes of different identities in Congress in comparison to the percent of the population.
- In 7th grade English, students explore equity and the themes of intersectionality.
- In 8th grade science, students investigate the patient file of a Grenadan immigrant to write a differential diagnosis of his genetic disease. In doing so, they are learning about historical and systemic racism in the American healthcare system and making connections to current events and healthcare access for racial minorities in the U.S.
- In 8th grade English, students learn about racial identity development and deepen their understanding of how that impacts their experiences.
- There are diversity, equity, and inclusion and social-emotional learning curricula in each grade. Example lessons include: Building Empathy, Identity self-discovery, Communicating Across Differences, Social Justice, and Anti-racism.
- African Dance program with 3rd grade students. Third 3rd grade has a comprehensive unit on Africa in which they study the geography, countries, and cultures of Africa. Part of that unit is a six-week, on-campus residency with the Jeannine Osayande & Dunya Performing Arts Company during which students learn not only many dances, but also about history and storytelling in the music and movements.
- The 4th grade trip to the National Museum for African American History and Culture: This trip is a culmination of studying American history from multiple perspectives. The guiding questions for this unit are: Who is telling the story? Whose voice isn’t being heard? Students also study changemakers in history who were involved in social justice, abolition, and women’s rights.
All employees engage in professional development to support growth in anti-bias and anti-racist competencies. The goal is for employees to be able to be aware of their own bias, privilege, and racial identities, and how those intersect in their work experiences with colleagues and students. Here are some examples:
- Employees engage in ongoing and mandatory professional development work on anti-bias anti-racist (ABAR) community topics. Recent topics include: racial Identity development, implicit bias, and being an upstander.
- Employees engage in professional development outside of Westtown through different programs and institutes including: The Kirwan Institute, The Race Institute, Crossroads, Lion’s Story, and The Equity Exchange.
- There is ongoing professional development work and ABAR community training for Administrators, the DEI Team, and members of the Board of Trustees.
- The Deans’ Office in the Upper School engaged in Restorative Approach to Discipline professional development.
- Westtown prioritizes and sends employees of color to the annual People of Color Conference.
- Faculty and staff attend the bi-annual Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Conference.
- Faculty and staff attend the annual Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS).
Westtown has created specific leadership roles, individuals who are charged with guiding our ABAR work and practices and developing curricula including: the all-school Dean of Equity, Justice, and Belonging, the Dean of Access and Equity in the Admission Office, and Equity and Inclusion coordinators in each division. Additionally, faculty members oversee affinity groups for students in all divisions that support students who identify as BIPOC, AAPI, LGBT+ students, international students, white upstanders, and allies. In the Upper School, students have created and lead affinity groups as well.
Our Health and Wellness team — comprising psychologists, counselors, and medical professionals — supports students as well. This team works in collaboration with the Equity and Inclusion coordinators to create and implement identity work and to support the social and emotional development of students.
Parents, guardians, and families of Westtown students are essential partners in our ABAR community building as well. The robust Families for Multicultural Community (FMC) has supported and sponsored campus events and initiatives, worked alongside Admission to increase diversity in our student body, and hosted cultural celebrations. They have created programming around race and identity for our families, such as SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) seminars, and continue to design opportunities for discussion, education, affinity space, and action.
FMC is a parent volunteer organization devoted to enhancing the Westtown experience of families from historically-underrepresented communities (African-American, Latino/a/x, Asian-American, Indigenous and Multiracial). FMC provides a network of support for students, parents, and faculty of color through events and initiatives designed to forge deeper unity within the Westtown community. They have sponsored speakers, organized cultural celebrations and helped organize the biannual Multicultural College Fair and Conference. This group is open to families from all backgrounds.
Policies and Practices
Employment: We are committed to inclusivity and non-discrimination in our hiring practices. We actively encourage candidates of color, LGBTQ+ candidates, and candidates from communities that are historically underrepresented in independent schools. We seek culturally competent candidates with a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion who are eager to engage in ongoing professional development in these areas. Search committee members receive anti-bias training to ensure an unbiased hiring process.
Admission and Enrollment: We seek to recruit and enroll a diverse student body by partnering with international consultants and community organizations that match students from underrepresented communities with independent schools.
Access and Financial Aid: Westtown School awards more than $11 million annually in financial aid to make a Westtown education accessible to more families. The Full Access Fund supports students receiving high financial aid so that they may participate fully in the life of the school by funding books and school supplies, sports equipment, travel experiences, and more.
Evaluation and Reporting Systems: There is ongoing evaluation of curricula, discipline processes, and audits of library books. Students and alums have access to multiple mechanisms for reporting incidents of racism, bias, and/or harassment.