DEIB Discussions

Upper School attends the inaugural DEIB workshop for this year


Photo credit: Nick Saracino

Assistant Principal Priyanka Rupani presents to the Upper School in the Main Gym.

On October 19, Upper School students engaged in an interactive lesson about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the Parker community. Students filed into the big gym during their Grade- room period, and sat collectively on the bleachers. Faculty lined the outskirts of the gym, and Assistant Principal Priyanka Rupani led the discussion.

These workshops were designed by Rupani and other faculty/administrators. The first session was introduced to students in May of 2022 during Student Government. This year, the workshops will become a series, occurring periodically throughout the year, with the next events coming in November, March, and May. Future topics are yet to be determined, but outside representatives will lead those conversations.

When Rupani began her time at Parker, she noticed there was no formalized education program for DEIB studies. These topics were usually incorporated into academic curricula.

“There was an opportunity to think about what might be missing for students, in terms of what it means to leave the school and be a responsible citizen,” Rupani said. The most recent session covered conversation and respect among the Parker community, in terms of DEIB issues, and responding to identity-based harm and creating opportunities for repair, after this harm.

“There’s a whole skill set and content knowledge to develop in students, especially in a school that’s so deeply committed to this work,” Rupani said.

In DEIB education, there’s an important aspect of understanding identity. Rupani highlighted this. “The topics and issues that we navigate as a society have always had issues of identity baked into them,” Rupani said. “I think it’s critical for young people to have the opportunities to practice having conversations around equity and justice.”

Parker’s mission is committed to progressive education and democracy. Curriculums highlight the idea of citizenship and valuable discussions between students.

“DEIB is one of the cornerstones of who we are as a Parker community,” Upper School Dean of Student Life Joe Bruno said. “I think we have made a lot of [DEIB] progress. But, there’s always a lot of work to do as things are evolving and changing. We always say the needs of society should shape what we’re doing in the classroom.”

Rupani believes that a central part of being a Parker graduate is having knowl-

edge and a “skill set” in DEIB work. Reflect- ing on her experience at Parker, she noticed opportunities to broaden this education.

“I definitely have seen a lot in my first year here and heard of reports of incidents that are alarming and concerning in a very short amount of time,” Rupani said. “The hope that the culture of the Upper School is one that is based in kindness and empathy and equity and inclusion.”

The workshop was interactive, allow- ing students to move around the room to voice opinions. Rupani noted that there is “comfort” in listening to a presentation, but there is value in conversations between peers.

“Listening to a speaker can be really transformative, don’t get me wrong, like, that’s an important part of education,” Rupani said. “But, doing the work, even feeling it in your body, and moving around a space—you might not see the effects of that the next day, the next week, or the next month, but it’s something that will stick with you.”

During the session, a scenario was projected on the screen, and students walked to the labeled area that matched reaction or response. Examples of these areas include “intervene,” “talk to an adult,” or “do nothing.” The student body was able to see a visual representation of how their peers would respond to an issue.

Senior Samara Boyd did not find this activity productive. “For a lot of students of color, the things that we went over in the workshop are things that we go through every single day,” Boyd said. “It’s kind of pointless for us to decide how we are going to respond to [the scenarios] and watch all of our white peers go to the ‘do nothing.’

Senior Lily Moss is a part of the Student Education Council. She believes that involving the entire Upper School made the workshop difficult to execute.

“Getting together in such large groups like that just makes everyone want to just doze off, not pay attention, and joke about this stuff,” Moss said. “But, if we met in smaller groups, people would take it more seriously. I just feel in Upper School, it’s really hard to concentrate on everything with all your friends around.”

Rupani noted that small group discussions aren’t feasible this year due to timing and logistics. “I’m a big proponent of doing this work in small groups, and having students meet with small groups that they would talk with throughout the year,” Rupani said. “Structurally, there isn’t a great way to do that this year. Ideally, that would be how this work would be rolled out.”

If students want to get more involved with DEIB work, they can apply for the “Upper School DEIB Task Force.” Also, students wishing to provide feedback on the recent workshop can fill out a form. Both of these items are detailed in an email sent by Rupani on October 28.

“We’ll be able to take feedback from the student body to say, ‘here are some things that as a community, we need to talk about a little bit more,’” Rupani said.

Bruno noted that DEIB work is important in building citizenship, not only within Parker but among society.

“There’s a lot going on in the world today,” Bruno said. “It is our job as adults to foster really critical, passionate thinkers who are respectful, kind, and open. There’s no smooth way to begin. So, let’s jump in, let’s be vulnerable. Let’s have these conversations.”