Sidwell Friends believes that diverse perspectives and meaningful inquiry fuel academic excellence and promote personal growth. Each of its three divisions stresses empathy, equity and social justice in age appropriate ways.
Students are at the heart of all diversity initiatives at Sidwell Friends. The School’s multicultural curriculum invites students to explore different cultures and realities. Students work collaboratively with their peers and teachers to create assemblies and programs that celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, Chinese New Year, and other important cultural events.
- The prizing of diversity is one of the institution’s core values.
Lower School focuses on self discovery and inclusiveness as children grow into an awareness of community. In keeping with Sidwell Friends’ Quaker heritage, even our youngest members consider probing questions and are taught to respect diverse viewpoints. Assemblies spotlight world cultures, outside presenters enrich the curriculum, and school-wide themes promote discussion of important topics. Third and fourth graders examine their own experiences through gender groups and seek solutions through conflict resolution and mediation training.
Middle School focuses on identity development and the intentional building of community. Within the advisory curriculum, dialogues about gender, sexuality, racism, bullying, responsibility and social justice move students to examine their lives, question assumptions, and imagine the future. Clubs and affinity groups such as the Diversity Project, the 5/6 and 7/8 Black Student Unions provide support at each level, and students often organize independently around topics and issues of interest. Middle School students regularly share their insights at Lower School and form broad alliances at Metro DC Diversity Leadership Conferences.
Upper School stresses contribution, commitment, activism and global vision. All ninth graders attend peer-led diversity training and a Freshman Studies course emphasizing personal responsibility. Clubs such as the Upper School diversity club Team 14, Black Student Union, GLSBT (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Bisexual, transgender Alliance), the Asian Student Alliance, and many others foster dialogue and promote equity. Each affinity group is encouraged to share its perspective through assemblies and other programs. Students debate important issues, question the status quo and support initiatives for change. Local and national student diversity leadership conferences such as the annual People of Color Conference help students step confidently into the larger world. In keeping with its core Quaker values, Sidwell Friends encourages students to reflect on the present and “let their lives speak” so that they may impact the future in meaningful ways.
Diversity initiatives at Sidwell Friends received national recognition in 2005 when the School was named recipient of the Leading Edge Award for Equity and Justice by the National Association of Independent Schools. Sidwell Friends has created a unique diversity structure that draws its strength from within.
Each division of the school funds a Diversity Coordinator who oversees age-appropriate diversity programs at each level. The All-School Diversity Coordinator, who reports to the Head of School, works closely with students, faculty, and parents to implement school-wide events and programs. The Diversity Advisory Group (DAG) draws from the entire employee pool and offers a broad perspective in its advisory capacity to the School’s Administrative Council. Many adult committees and parent/staff teams work together to help the School address immediate concerns thoughtfully and frame future programs. On important issues Sidwell Friends seeks to "embrace the tension" while remaining grounded in the Quaker practices of active listening, consensus building and "speaking truth to power."
Faculty and Administration join forces to envision and implement diversity efforts at Sidwell Friends. Faculty members in each division examine multicultural materials, teach an inclusive curriculum, and sponsor student groups. A Diversity Coordinator for each division leads workshops, initiates programs, collaborates with parents and faculty, clerks a divisional diversity committee and advises the Principal. Sidwell’s All-School Diversity Coordinator is a full member of the Administrative Council and meets regularly with the Head of School and the Trustee Diversity Committee. The All-School Coordinator clerks the Diversity Advisory Group, works directly with Parent Association Chairs and oversees programs and initiatives across the School. The Head of School provides leadership for diversity programs, and five Trustees meet monthly to review and formulate policy.
Parents support the mission of the School both at home and through active participation in organizations such as the divisional Parents Association Diversity Committees, the Parents of Black Students, and the Parents of Latino Students. The Diversity Advisory Group works closely with interested parents to organize discussions, readings, presentations and dialogues with students and families. Parent Diversity Chairs meet regularly with Faculty Diversity Coordinators to envision programs and share concerns. Families new to the School benefit from outreach and orientation provided by the Parents Association. Sidwell Friends offers parents, staff, faculty, and administrators a chance to participate in established SEED groups on campus. SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) is a national curriculum development program that focuses on infusing equity and multiculturalism into classroom practice. Monthly sessions enable members to share perspectives and develop strategies for change.