From Bill: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Marin Horizon

At our recent What’s Your Dumpling event a parent said to me, “Marin Horizon just feels different—it really lives its values, especially when it comes to diversity.”
While feeling this sense of inclusion and diversity is the ultimate goal for all our students and families—and wonderful to hear people talk about—it is important to define what Marin Horizon means by the words diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and the work we are doing to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.

Not long ago, most schools simply used the word “diversity” to encompass everything related to multiculturalism. Now, however, we’ve moved to more specific language, referring to this work as DEI: diversity, equity and inclusion. Why the change? Because we realized our goal is about more than just keeping track of the racial makeup of our student body; it’s about creating an environment where all of our students will thrive, which only happens when they feel safe, known, and included. “Inclusion” in this context means building a culture of belonging in which any individual can feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.
 
The terms “equality” and “equity” are often misunderstood as well. Simply put, equality gives everyone the same thing whereas equity asks us to give each member of our community what they need to be successful. Clearly, equity requires a great deal more thought and work because it requires us to deeply know all of our students and to give them what they need to thrive. However, creating equity remains our goal.
 
So why do I believe it is so important to invest sustained time and effort into DEI work? The answer is simple: just as diversity fosters a more innovative workforce, a diverse classroom environment produces better academic and social outcomes. When children are seen and heard, they are far more receptive to learning. When children see and hear from others who think differently, they learn to appreciate different perspectives. If you want your child to develop higher levels of critical thinking, put them in a diverse environment.  
 
DEI work, of course, is ongoing. By no means do I believe Marin Horizon has figured it out. We haven’t. We continually challenge ourselves to create better learning environments for all students. Successful schools don’t just talk about their values, they live them. To that end, below are several examples of our commitment to DEI at Marin Horizon: 
  • DEI is woven into many areas of our curriculum.
    • Responsive Classroom
    • Restorative justice
    • Identity conversations
    • Diversity-focused book selections
    • Mosaic Project
    • Gender and sexuality conversations (middle school)
    • Social justice/change agent projects (middle school)
    • Middle school essential question: “What does it mean to be the other?
    • Climate and environmental justice
  • Our commitment to DEI exists from our faculty and staff all the way to the board of trustees. A board-led DEI committee has guided the strategic work of the school and created events such as What’s your Dumpling?, MLK Night, parent education programs such as last winter’s workshop by Elizabeth Denevi, “Words Matter: Talking To Your Kids About Race,” and cosponsoring the film screening of “I’m Not Racist, Am I?” at the Mill Valley Community Center last year. 
  • Our Director of DEI, Stevie Lee, has held this position for 22 years. He leads our faculty in DEI training and works closely with the board DEI committee.  
  • With over 40% faculty and staff of color, our students of color find comfort in seeing familiar adult faces and all of our students observe firsthand the modeling of adults from different backgrounds working together to create impactful outcomes.  
  • Every year multiple faculty members attend—and are often presenters at—the annual National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC). 
 
Although I am proud of our longstanding commitment to DEI work and how it has become a part of our DNA at Marin Horizon, I also recognize that we have myriad opportunities for growth. We are committed to this growth for one simple reason: it’s good for our students. 
 
I came across this short video recently from NAIS. It features Julia Lythcott-Haims, former Dean at Stanford University and author of Real American: A Memoir, who summarizes her views on the importance of DEI work in independent schools. Her message certainly resonated with me and I thought you might enjoy another perspective on the topic.
 
If you have any questions about our DEI work, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Danny, Rochelle, Stevie, or me. 
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