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The Importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice in NYSAIS Independent Schools

The New York State Association of Independent Schools is committed to guiding and supporting all member schools in their effort to create and sustain communities that develop and implement principles and practices underscoring the place of anti-racism, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in their students’ education and experience. Although there is much work to be done by both NYSAIS and our member schools, this commitment is a foundational aspect of NYSAIS membership and fundamental to our work.

In the matter of the ongoing work of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools, we must be vigilant against this gravitational pull toward an inequitable status quo. As such, a core aspect of our work at NYSAIS is a continuous recalibration of our policies, practices, and systems in order to make manifest our mission to serve these priorities. This is ongoing work.

The New York State Association will continue to provide leadership and guidance on anti-racism, equity, inclusion, and justice. This is intentional and integral to our common membership. The preamble to the NYSAIS Principles of Best Practice for Equity and Justice, adopted in early 2017, clarifies this commitment by stating,

Each NYSAIS school is expected to create and promote a safe, inclusive, equitable, and, just independent school environment for all members of its educational community. This requires commitment, reflection, conscious and deliberate action, as well as constant vigilance. The NYSAIS Principles of Best Practice for Equity and Justice provide the foundation for a community in which these guiding principles inform each school’s deliberations, decisions, appointments, and policies.

This NYSAIS membership expectation is guided by specific Principles of Best Practice that include, among others,

  • Establishing the foundation for the institution’s commitment to equity and justice by consistently respecting, affirming, and protecting the dignity and worth of all members of the school community.
  • Regularly establishing, publishing, implementing, and reviewing policies and communication that promote equity and justice.
  • Supporting the ongoing education of the board, family, students, and all school personnel as part of the process of creating and promoting an equitable, just, and safe community.

The complete set of NYSAIS Principles of Best Practice for Equity and Justice can be found at this link

The NYSAIS Principles of Best Practice for Equity and Justice are further strengthened through specific NYSAIS accreditation criteria. Every accredited NYSAIS school must recognize their responsibility to implement NYSAIS accreditation criteria that include, among others,

  • The issues of equity, justice, and anti-bias are integrated into the educational program.
  • The governing body establishes policies that reflect diversity and cultural competency and ensures that these qualities are reflected in decision-making and governing body membership.

The complete criteria for accreditation can be found in the NYSAIS Manual for Evaluation and Accreditation 4.2 at this link

Implicit in both the NYSAIS Principles of Best Practice for Equity and Justice and the NYSAIS accreditation criteria, is a recognition that independent school students are best served when we help them identify and interrupt unjust systems. We serve them well if we can help them imagine, and then create, a more just and equitable world. It is clear from events throughout society that the challenges our students are inheriting remain tremendously complex and deeply rooted. As educators, we know that our role is to help them recognize the need for change and the possibilities that are available to those who are committed to being part of the solution. Indeed, our students need our faith in their ability to do better than has been done before. Our efforts should not ebb and flow in response to national news events, social media, or themes-of-the-year. This requires consistent attention as we seek opportunities for dialogue and, perhaps more importantly, action; especially around the history and impact of racism in our schools and our country. To this end, the NYSAIS Board of Trustees and staff remain committed to our own ongoing professional learning around anti-racism, equity, inclusion, diversity, and justice.

Unequivocally committed to supporting and advancing the arc of justice, NYSAIS will continue to refine and provide principles, accreditation criteria, and professional learning opportunities to all member schools as they expand their ongoing efforts around diversity, equity, justice, inclusion, and anti-racism.