June 5, 2020
We are stunned and horrified as we consider the events surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other acts of violence and racism. We reflect on where we stand, with whom, and how. At The Elisabeth Morrow School, we strive to provide an exceptional education focused on fostering social-emotional growth around the four Cs. We work hard at being an inclusive community, but know that as a human enterprise, we are not exempt from acts of racism.
As the mother to four black children, I know racism firsthand. When my son and his cousin were 11 years old, playing in our front yard in Newark, the police stopped them and threw them in the back of their squad car. On another occasion, my husband and 10-year-old son were sitting in our car having lunch when the police approached them and accused them of stealing our own car. My husband showed them our car registration, but the police refused to believe him. We, like you, have many other stories.
I share these vignettes about my own personal experience as a black family because work against racism is vitally and viscerally important to me. I apologize sincerely to the alumni who reached out to us this week on social media about how they had suffered racism as students at our school. It is so hard for us to think about having caused you pain. This is not the EMS today and it is antithetical to the values of our community and all we stand for and strive for on a daily basis. The work we are doing now, in the words of Gandhi, will “bring about the change we want to see in the world.”
Over the last few years, we have ushered in our eighth-grade leadership symposium program. In doing this, we are intentionally amplifying the student voice, while also giving students the necessary tools to bring about change; starting first within the four walls of each classroom and community space. We now have a series of student-led panels for faculty, administration, and staff, where students share their perspectives on the EMS experience. They and our faculty do significant research and lead the community at assemblies. Students and all adults know what we stand for and reflect deeply on what our mission means. These leadership activities serve as a powerful mirror in guiding the practices we employ as adult community members, giving us the opportunity to reflect and refine our practices; to make them as equitable, just, and inclusive as possible. In Little School, our fourth graders also exercise their leadership skills by researching and presenting assemblies, on topics such as the Civil Rights Movement and the American Disabilities Act. In Chilton House, identity work begins with our youngest students, equipping them with the language and perspective they need to understand themselves, their friends, and the world around them. We can and must teach children to appreciate and value differences, to love and to give of themselves for the good of all.
We are focused on experiential learning experiences on diversity and inclusion for our students, faculty, and parents. The work that I’ve covered in my email is just a small sampling of our activities, led this year by faculty members Phoebe Search and Vanessa Anderson-Zheng. This fall, Ms. Search will be The Elisabeth Morrow School’s first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity. Ms. Search has been a teacher at EMS for four years and has taught in independent schools since the fall of 2000. She will continue to serve as co-chair of the faculty's Equity and Justice Task Force; it’s exciting to see a large critical mass within the faculty and administration now actively participating in our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. We vow to continue this work of empowering each student’s voice so that all students in our school community have an equitable experience here at EMS. As they grow in recognizing their own unique beauty and the deep sense of the beauty and preciousness of every other human being, our students and graduates will transform this world as self advocates, as voices for the voiceless, and as creators of the “beloved community.”
Dr. Maureen Fonseca
Head of School
Click here to view Dr. Fonseca's email about Blackout Tuesday.
- Head of School