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The Importance of Language for Understanding

In a piece in The Globe and Mail Opinion section this weekend entitled A Modern Dictionary four authors provide definitions in order to offer a guide to what inclusion means. The authors, John Ralston Saul, Adrienne Clarkson, Charles Foran and Scott Young are involved in a wonderful annual conference entitled Six Degrees Toronto whose purpose is to question and address the things that can be done to “counter rising nativism and exclusion.” I was fortunate to attend this thought-provoking and worthwhile event three years ago.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are topics St. Clement’s has actively focused on for several years. As a single gender school we have worked to create internal guidelines for transgender and gender non-conforming students to provide clarity for our staff so that our students are supported. In addition, over the last three years our Diversity Task Force, comprised of staff and students has worked with a facilitator to create and enact a diversity strategy that allows for clarity, understanding and support for all community members.

A year ago, part of our diversity strategy was to review and revise our Diversity Statement. Just as the authors in the Globe and Mail article explain that simply having words is not enough, St. Clement’s feels it important to ensure that our community is aware of and understands our statement.

Ms Henricks and I shared our Diversity Statement and the definitions within it at our Junior School Curriculum Night this past week, and we will do so again this week at our Grades 9-12 Curriculum Evening. The statement, like our School’s mission, is an important guide for us as we teach and learn alongside our girls and within our community.

The statement reads: St. Clement’s School is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We value each community member’s identity and well-being. Together, we learn and grow by embracing multiple perspectives, experiences, and cultures. Our differences are our strengths.

St. Clement’s believes that diversity is the presence of a wide range of human traits, attributes, and aspects among and between people. Differences among people include (but are not limited to) race, colour, ancestry, creed (religion), place of origin, ethnic origin, citizenship, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, disability and other grounds that are part of the Ontario Human Rights Code (1962). Diversity also includes socio‐economic status, diversity of knowledge, worldviews, and experiences that may not be named in legislation.  St. Clement’s School recognizes that multiple levels and aspects of difference contribute to and impact how we work, learn, and grow.

St. Clement’s believes that equity means access and fair treatment for all people, and takes into account individual, group or demographic needs and differences, as well as systemic barriers. By working to address biases, overcome defensiveness, and reduce barriers to teaching and learning, St Clement’s School commits to creating an environment that works to support and uphold the principles of equity.

St. Clement’s believes that inclusion means welcoming, accepting, and prioritizing diversity.  We are all different and we all belong.  We strive to create a culture where inclusion is felt as soon as you become part of St Clement’s: you can see yourself reflected in the school environment, facilities, processes, curriculum, and community.

We are excited that the theme of diversity is guiding our LINCWell Speaker Series this year. On October 17, 2018: Hadiya Roderique: lawyer, writer, speaker and former co-host of Commons, one of Canada’s top political podcasts will be joining us. Ms Roderique wrote “Black on Bay Street”, an article in The Globe and Mail, that outlined her experiences as a young Black woman working in a Bay Street firm.  On January 30, 2019: Dr. Leonard Sax: family physician, Ph.D., psychologist and founder of the National Association for Single Sex Public Schools. Author of Why Gender Matters, Boys Adrift, Girls on the Edge and The Collapse of Parenting. Stay tuned for our Spring speaker, to be announced over the coming weeks.

Our focus on diversity is important work as we seek to have as inclusive an environment for every person within our community and, equally, as we prepare our girls for their lives beyond 21 St. Clements Avenue.

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