"Creating Inclusive Communities" ARTWORK BY LI WINNINGHAM, SWS Grade 12 Student
MAY 10, 2019

In 2016, a Community Equity Committee was formed at Seattle Waldorf School. The committee started exploring many questions, including: "How do we foster a school culture that embraces and upholds the foundations of an equitable and inclusive community?" And, "What does equity mean and look like at SWS?"

During the following school year our thinking evolved, and the committee started to frame our diversity, equity, and inclusion questions in terms of practices, policies, and programs for the school as a whole, for the committee, and within ourselves. In addition to regularly scheduled committee meetings, Rosetta Lee was invited to speak as part of the Parent Education Evening series. The year's work culminated with the planning and implementation of the World Cafe held in April 2018 and led by Katie Laskey (former SWS gardening teacher and DEI coordinator) and the Parent Equity Committee.

Throughout the 2018-2019 school year the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, coordinated by Flora McEachern, has held the goal to provide spaces where more members of the SWS community feel supported in this transformative work.
  • The Faculty Equity Committee (started by Katie  Laskey in 2017) continues to discuss resources for personal development in the areas of DEI and check in on the conversations within the different branches: Early Childhood, Grade School, and High School.
  • The Parent Equity Committee (PEC) is an open forum for discussion, resource-sharing, and personal development.
  • The newly formed High School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Club, also led by Flora McEachern, offers students opportunities to raise awareness of social justice topics.
  • The new Equity Advisory Group (EAG) comprises SWS board members, faculty, administrators, parents, and students who have committed to participate in the work on a consistent and regular basis.
Below, you will find an array of articles that form the basis for our Community Conversation on Wednesday, May 15. This event offers the entire community the opportunity to come together and share their perspectives and learnings as we navigate an ongoing conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion at our school. We hope you can attend!

Please join us for a Community Conversation

Creating Inclusive Communities

Wednesday, May 15
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Hazel Hall  |  Seattle Waldorf High School in Magnuson Park

G4STUDYGrade 4: Study of Local Geography, History and Culture

Daichi Hirata, SWS Grade 4 Class Teacher

Local history is often a celebration of what an area's dominant cultural group has accomplished. Many Seattle history books are no exception in that they glorify the accomplishments of white pioneers and colonizers while leaving the stories (sometimes of vastly differing experiences) of minority groups simply as asides in the corners of textbooks -- or often leaving them out completely. I think there is a danger when children, particularly those whose cultural background includes privileged or dominant groups, hear only the accounts of white pioneers and colonizers. These children can grow up blind to the injustices experienced by non-dominant groups -- and they can grow up feeling entitled to the privileges that have been afforded to them. I also acknowledge the delicate balance in bringing historical themes that are painful (and perhaps shameful) as children move through the tumultuous nine- or ten-year change.

In grade 4, our study of local history and geography includes drawing maps that reveal interesting facts about our local culture. We began by creating a geographical map of our area before European contact, and subsequently added transparent layers showing us changes in the actual geography, place names, and populations over time.

Left Seattle area geography. center Coastal Salish place names.
Right The changed landscape and colonizer place names

What we were able to observe is that for most of its history, Seattle has been a tightly segregated city, fully committed to separation and exclusion of those considered "not white." This is not just a story of the Deep South or somewhere far away, but our history as well. We began mapping the neighborhood-by-neighborhood distribution of Japanese, Chinese, and African American people in the years 1923, 1943, 1963.

Left 1923 race map of Seattle. Right 1943 race map of Seattle.
These maps have served as a catalyst for our conversations about the impact on communities when there are systematic constrictions of people of certain backgrounds. While these communities experienced injustice and the impact of its harsh reality, there are also creative and powerful ways these communities supported each other and rose up against hatred and oppression.

I believe that learning history should ultimately drive us toward wanting to know more. Understanding history can inspire us to take bold actions that leave legacies like those left by visionaries of the past, while also sowing the seeds for a collective sense of responsibility -- reminding us that our purpose in life is to serve humanity as citizens of this community, of this city, of this country, and of our world.

Robert Murphy, SWS Strings Teacher

We all have multiple facets to our identity: gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic class, and religious affiliation, to name some examples. Affinity groups link people who have a common interest or purpose; they provide opportunities for sharing and exploring one's life and experience within a safe and supportive space defined by membership in a specific identity group. Affinity groups facilitate opportunities to affirm, nurture, and celebrate lived experiences. They provide space to discuss issues of identity development in a safe environment where people who share that identity can generate community, fellowship, and empowerment.

On Wednesday, May 15, we will come together to discuss what types of affinity groups Seattle Waldorf School community members are calling to have. Bring your questions, a willingness to discuss identity, and your hopes and dreams for Seattle Waldorf School to be a place where all community members have a sense of belonging.

"Love is higher than opinion. If people love one another the most varied opinions can be reconciled -- thus one of the most important tasks for humankind today and in the future is that we should learn to live together and understand one another. If this human fellowship is not achieved, all talk of development is empty."
-Rudolf Steiner

Martha Swain (Pre-K Teacher) and Betsy Weill (Grade 8 Teacher)

Betsy and I, as members of the Equity Advisory Group, recognized quickly that each member of the group offers a different background, level of knowledge, and set of experiences when it comes to the issue of racism in the United States. We have faculty and parent members who are people of color in our group, as well as white parents and faculty. One of our goals this year has been for us to learn together and reach a common level of understanding. We have talked about the history of racism in our country, the systemic racism in public education, and our dominant white culture. These discussions have led us to seek out books and articles that focus on what it means to be white. We were both raised by parents who believed that race didn't matter and we internalized the message that "we are all just people."

In her book, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, sociologist and author Robin DiAngelo challenges this approach to upbringing and encourages white readers to think about their lives and about white privilege. We found this notion to be difficult and also a wonderful opportunity for growth. To quote Dr. DiAngelo:

"White people consider a challenge to our racial worldviews as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as an unsettling and unfair moral offense."

We invite you to join us at the Wednesday, May 15 Community Conversation as we share some of what we have learned about being white and our own white fragility.

To prepare for this conversation, if you have time, we encourage you to follow this link to read an article about White Fragility. While this reading is not mandatory to participate in the conversation, it will enhance your understanding of this topic.
Grade 1 Knitting
Building Inclusive Communities Through Racial Healing Circles RACIALHEALING

Luci Hackbert, SWS Middle School and High School Parent

If you are looking for an opportunity to reflect in community and share in creating a more inclusive culture at SWS, then this group is for you! This will be a initial exploration of Racial Healing Circles as a container capable of inspiring individuals, organizations, and communities for collective action. In Circle together, we will explore deep listening, movement, and creativity as powerful resources on the healing journey.

Suggested Pre-work for This Group

Additional Resources
Grade 10 Portraits

Art as ActivismARTACTIVISM

Seattle Waldorf High School DEI Club

In March, the High School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) club attended a NWAIS Student Leadership Conference in Portland, Oregon called "A Work In Progress: Art as Activism." This conference was designed to awaken awareness in students and inspire them to create change and bring new ideas back to their respective schools. While there, we attended art workshops, watched performances, listened to adult and peer speakers, participated in affinity groups, discussed issues we would like to change in our schools, and made connections with other students.

We returned from the conference energized to bring these conversations back to our own school. We recognize that a valuable characteristic of SWS staff and faculty is their willingness to support the individual needs of each student. Students can talk to their advisers, teachers, and class sponsors about any issues that they're having; learning support is offered for students who need extra support; and student voices and feedback are welcome regarding the homework load and academic responsibilities. However, there are still many conversations to be had. We want to witness the adults around us striving to learn, grow, and go outside of their comfort zone. We want to see the Waldorf curriculum include more voices that have not been heard in the past. We want the entire community to make a commitment to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels.

Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." And when we bring awareness and talk openly about issues such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, religious expression, and social justice, then we as a community can really grow.


At the "Creating Inclusive Communities" evening event on May 15, the high school students who attended the "Work in Progress" conference will be leading middle school students in a variety of artistic experiences they learned. The intention is to give a space and form for students' voices to be seen and heard. Written and spoken word, lino block printing, and zine-making will be offered as options.


Creating Inclusive Communities
Hosted by the SWS Equity Advisory Group

Wednesday, May 15   |  6:30 p.m.
Hazel Hall, Seattle Waldorf High School
7777 62nd Avenue NE, Seattle, WA

Join us for an all-school community dinner and conversation in small groups facilitated by members of the SWS Equity Advisory Group-comprising parents, faculty, staff, board members, and students representing all grades. The goal of the evening is to build capacities in our community to inspire, encourage, and further our commitment to fostering an inclusive community at Seattle Waldorf School.

We'll start the evening at 6:30 with a community potluck dinner. Please sign up here to bring a dish to share.

Conversations facilitated by:
  • Robert Murphy  ::  Affinity Groups
  • Martha Swain & Betsy Weill  ::  White Fragility
  • High School Students  ::  Art as Activism
  • Luci Hackbert  ::  Building Community Through Racial Healing Circles
Seattle Waldorf School  |  206.524.5320  |   seattlewaldorf.org