Dear RCDS Community Members,
We are writing to report on the independent review into complaints of racism and discrimination at RCDS and the steps that we are taking to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) in our community. As you know, the Board of Trustees remains committed to prioritizing DEI at RCDS and continues to work in close partnership with the administration to address concerns that have been raised to continually improve our policies, practices, and culture, and to help our community move forward together.
Last summer, the Board announced several steps to address complaints raised by RCDS community members. These included: (1) the creation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to provide leadership, guidance, oversight, and support to the School in its efforts around DEI issues; (2) engaging Natashia Tidwell and Candace McLaren of Saul, Ewing, Arnstein & Lehr (together, “SEAL”) to conduct a comprehensive review of individual concerns raised by members of the community; and (3) gathering available data to augment the SEAL review, including information about the overall student population, discipline and detentions, college matriculation, and AP/Honors enrollment.
SEAL reviewed, among other things, posts and comments on social media; complaints submitted through the School’s online complaints portal; letters from RCDS community members; the above data gathered by the Board; and existing RCDS handbooks, policies, and procedures. SEAL also conducted interviews with a number of individuals in the school community. All participants were assured anonymity in order to obtain their most candid feedback.
RCDS has been committed to enhancing diversity for many years, but clearly, more work is needed. Much of this was evident from the social media posts we saw last summer. The work done by SEAL, however, has given us a deeper understanding of how the School’s efforts have fallen short. Broadly speaking, RCDS has not been sufficiently sensitive to the unique challenges faced by persons of color in our community, and when concerns have been raised, they often have not been addressed adequately. Although in certain cases these failings can be attributed to individual behavior, the SEAL report identifies an unmistakable need for improved policies, procedures, and accountability at the School.
Today, the Board and administration are announcing our shared commitment to a series of initiatives based on SEAL’s recommendations, which will be implemented by the administration with oversight by the Board’s DEI Committee. Some initiatives are already underway and have been, or are being, incorporated into the school’s DEI Plan – but in all cases, these steps are designed to promote a safer, more equitable, and more inclusive learning environment that will benefit all RCDS community members.
Initiatives Based on SEAL’s Recommendations:
- Enhancing Complaint Management Procedures – The School is already working with outside experts to design and implement best-in-class procedures for addressing complaints, including a formal, documented complaint management system and protocol.
- Improving Counseling and Support Services – The School has completed a comprehensive review of Student Support Services, to identify ways to better address the needs of the school community, including a formal audit and review of the training, policies, and procedures of the department.
- Athletic Department Review – The School has engaged Steve Broadwell to conduct a comprehensive review of the athletics program to identify ways in which its mission and operation may be better aligned with the standards and priorities of the broader school community, including a formal audit and review of the training and policies of the department.
- Better Communication and Transparency – We will all be working to enhance communication with the RCDS community in order to improve confidence in the School’s processes and ensure that decisions are being made fairly and consistently, without regard to race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or parental status.
- Conduct Annual Training and Evaluations – The School will be engaging outside experts to conduct annual diversity and inclusion and sexual harassment training for faculty, administrators, and students; implementing a written faculty evaluation process to allow students to provide feedback; and conducting exit interviews with families who leave the School in order to gain a better understanding regarding what may have prompted their decisions.
- Instituting Formal Data Collection and Reporting – The School will devise analytical metrics and improve its routine and formal capture of both qualitative and quantitative data so that the administration and the Board of Trustees are better able to track and evaluate trends over time.
- Adopting Other Steps Towards Further Inclusion – Working with outside advisors, the School has reviewed and updated its policies and procedures regarding political, hate, and other offensive speech. We will both create spaces for members of traditionally marginalized groups to congregate on campus and foster increased opportunities for intergroup interactions. We will also eliminate all financial-related holds on student report cards and transcripts.
The members of the Board’s DEI Committee and members of the administration will continue to meet regularly with our DEI Consultant, Dr. Kira Banks, as well as participate in independent school DEI and governance-related training and programming to inform and guide their work. The School will provide regular updates to the community on the progress made in implementing the DEI Plan initiatives.
It is important for all of us to understand that this will be an ongoing process. The initiatives summarized above will not only take time to implement, but additional measures may become necessary down the road. The Board and RCDS are committed to addressing and improving around issues of culture, equity, and inclusion—both now and in the future.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge the debt of gratitude we owe to the members of the RCDS community who courageously shared their stories, as well as the many members of our community who responded to this call to action and who have been working, and continue to work, towards the achievement of an anti-racist and inclusive culture at RCDS.
The RCDS Board of Trustees