DEI Guide for Parent Involvement
Running your group in a way that lets all members of a school community feel welcome can be a challenge, but it also has the benefit of being highly rewarding for your PTO or PTA—namely, more involvement and more volunteers. That’s a positive outcome for any school parent organization.
To make the challenge a bit easier to tackle, this DEI Guide for Parent Involvement gives your group a starting framework to become more representative of all the different voices that are present in your school community, and to make diversity, equity, and inclusion an everyday part of running your group.
What’s Covered in the DEI Guide for Parent Involvement:
Why You Should Care About Diversity and Inclusion
Engaging in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives ultimately makes all groups stronger.
Definitions in plain English to make sense of complex topics.
Know Your Community
How to get started building a culture of respect and mutual trust that includes every family.
How To Create a Group Agreement
Best practices for defining rules about expected behavior that can be used at meetings, in discussions, or anywhere else that people with different opinions or lived experiences come together.
How To Create a Diversity-Centered Mission Statement
Developing a mission or vision statement is a process of discovering who you are as a group and why you’ve chosen to spend your collective energies in a parent group. It’s an important way to unify, motivate, and inspire your members.
Diversify Your Board
How to weave diversity and inclusion into the daily practices of your group at all levels—from the individual leaders to your group as a whole organization.
Diversify Your Activities
Tips for rethinking your planning to incorporate all voices.
Links to book lists, explainer videos, and more to help support your group’s DEI efforts.
Why it’s important for your school community and how you can start making it part of your everyday work.
Get To Know Your Community
It starts with knowing who’s part of your community. Identifying and recognizing everyone who makes up your school community will help your group make better day-to-day decisions. The better you know the families, the more thoughtful you can be when you recruit volunteers, plan activities and events, consider arts and enrichment opportunities, or decide which field trips or schoolwide initiatives to contribute to.
Are you a diverse population with a mix of ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic backgrounds? Or is your school population generally made up of one ethnicity or religion? Rather than making assumptions, do some research.
Your school district can provide some of the overall demographic details, but be aware that privacy concerns will limit what it can share. To help fill the gap, conduct a survey (and disclose why you’re doing it). For example, learning more about different family structures or religions will inform decisions about what to call a dance or what holidays to learn more about. The survey can be anonymous, or parents can add their contact information. You might also find out who’s interested in serving on a DEI committee.
Here are a few areas to explore:
- Racial backgrounds
- Cultural norms, preferences
- Socioeconomic factors
- Gender identities/expressions
- Sexual orientation
- Family structures
- Physical and neurological considerations
- Religious practices
Be Open to Different Perspectives
If you’ve always done an annual event one way, consider a change in the name or structure to include those groups that have felt left out in the past. For example, if your parent group has always held a Daddy-Daughter Dance in April, it might be time to change the name to something that won’t alienate students whose fathers are out of their daily lives or who have two mothers.
Changing a tradition like an annual dance might cause disagreements. Instead of shying away from controversy, think of it as your chance to encourage people to open themselves up to new perspectives and differing opinions. If you’re planning a discussion, it’s a good idea to make and follow ground rules so everyone’s opinions can be heard and the conversation stays on track.
Hear All Voices
Connect with populations at your school who aren’t as vocal. Look for groups that represent diverse viewpoints and invite them to actively contribute. And if your school has a smaller population that speaks a different language, arrange for translators so those parents can feel comfortable attending and sharing.
Being an open-minded listener means suspending judgment about what another speaker is saying and opening yourself up to being influenced by them. That might sound uncomfortable, but it’s necessary when you’re trying to understand a different point of view. It also means listening with empathy to better understand the other person’s experiences.
- Leave your ego at the door.
- Set and follow your group agreement to keep things respectful.
- State at the beginning of the conversation that the goal is open discussion and understanding—not total agreement.
- Allow and encourage differing opinions.
- Ask questions, and ask for examples.
- Do self-reflection to know what you bring to the discussion, what surprises you, and what you’re most familiar and comfortable with (and by extension, what you’re uncomfortable with).
- Strive to find common ground with the other person. What beliefs, ideologies, or experiences do you share?
Still have questions? Call us at 800-557-2670; we’re here to help.