On Tuesday, we presented to a number of families more information about the work we are doing on gender and our broader identity work. We used the questions that came in from parents in framing the presentation and we added a Q&A section at the end with themes of questions that came up more than once. Below, you will find important information from this presentation and further answers to questions we did not have time to answer on Tuesday.
I realize that some families are concerned about the Lower School affinity group and I am aware there is still some misunderstanding and misinformation about the work we are doing so I really hope this information will be helpful.
You will find the slideshow from Tuesday here, and the recording of the presentation will be shared out early next week. If you have further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. Thank you.
We are currently running 2 affinity groups in Grades 2 - 4 and Grades 5 - 8: Students of Color and LGBTQ+Allies
Affinity groups are only for children who are interested and want to attend. No child in the Lower School will attend a group without their parents’ permission or support in 2022-23. Additionally, Moira Smith will be reaching out to Lower School parents whose children attend affinity groups on Monday to ensure you’re comfortable with your child attending sessions.
In the Lower School affinity groups, there is no mention or conversation about sexuality. The focus is on friendship and support for one another. The trained facilitators and children focus on building a community of empathy and support through a variety of activities. You can read more about those activities here.
Affinity groups meet every other week and are run during the school day so that all children who want can attend. The times vary by division and group, but were structured around times when students wouldn’t be pulled away from the classroom (i.e. lunch or independent study).
Sex Education Curriculum
The sex education curriculum at Brookwood starts in Grade 4. There is no teaching of sex or sexuality outside of this period.
If a child asks a question regarding sex or sexuality, our teachers are trained to respond in an age appropriate manner. Usually, the teacher would make contact with parents to keep them in the loop of information exchanged.
Every year, our science department hosts a coffee for parents with kids in Grades 4 - 8 to share details about our human sexuality curriculum. This is the slideshow from this year’s presentation. Please note, all content in this presentation, including the Gender Bread diagram, is not presented to students until the human sexuality units begin in fourth grade.
Gender and Identity Work
Gender and identity is thoughtfully managed through the curriculum at age appropriately. Children in the Lower School are never asked to choose their pronouns. In the Upper School, as in many schools, children may be asked to disclose their pronouns at the start of new term or year in order for our faculty and classroom communities to recognize and respect each person how they would like to be recognized.
How does Brookwood’s DEI Curriculum compare to other independent schools?
As an AISNE accredited school, Brookwood is held to the following accreditation standards:
Standard 1, Indicator 5: As a core part of its mission, The school values the quality of life of all members of its community and takes actions to create a safe, inclusive, equitable, and just environment.
Standard 4, Indicator 3: The school’s teaching practices, curriculum, and co-curriculum reflect a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Standard 5, Indicator 3: The school recognizes differences within the student body -- including gender, ability/disability, race, age, ethnicity, family background, family structure,socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and religious practice -- and understands how aspects of student identity impact well-being.
I worry the discussions happening at school don’t align with the values we are instilling in my child at home.
Our children encounter people with different beliefs when they join any community. One aim for learning about diversity is to become more accepting of those around us, so they can get along and learn together.
DEI education is about teaching students to live and work with others. You do not need to fully understand another person’s experience to treat them appropriately. It comes down to the simple agreement that all children must be treated with kindness and respect.
I don’t really feel like I know how to answer my child’s questions.
Answer children’s questions simply, and let them take the lead in how deep the conversation goes. Most children are satisfied with this approach. They will guide the conversation from there and rarely ask the complex questions that occur to adults. You may be surprised at how simply children navigate this terrain.
Some parents have found responses such as, “Hmmm, I am just learning about that myself. Let me tell you what I know, and then if you would like to learn more, maybe we could do that together,” to be helpful in opening up pathways for further discussion.