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DEI: A Change in Culture By sally king

Photo Courtesy of Pinewood Smugmug

In the summer of 2020, the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd sparked the powder keg of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the Pinewood Administration decided that it was time to be more formal about the way Pinewood School addressed the issues of DEI – diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The administration and faculty began conversations about the DEI issues and started to learn more over the summer. It was recommended that the staff read three books: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin J. DiAngelo. Those who did read them had a discussion about them at the beginning of the school year.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF AMAZON

““It is one thing for us to engage with the students, but if we don’t have the knowledge or the training and the expertise in this...we would not be able to meet the needs of our students,” Principal Gabriel Lemmon said.

Although the DEI committee was originally formed several years ago, they never had a real objective that they wanted to work toward. However, with the recent help from external sources, they are working to establish a focused direction of how they want the DEI movement to go across all of the Pinewood campuses. They have started to create a “common mission,” the specific details of which are still being worked out. Nonetheless, change doesn’t happen after just one conversation.

“Culture is not something that you can just turn off and on, and just order up being different. It’s changing systems. It’s changing hearts and minds,” Lemmon said.

The committee and administration want to develop the culture at Pinewood further and create a safer and more informed community for the students to be shaped and thrive in.

“We want to help [students] not only know and understand what is happening but be participants in helping the world become a better place”

“We are laying the groundwork in a thoughtful way so that we can move forward, meeting the needs of our students,” Lemmon said.

Lemmon detailed that in establishing a common vocabulary, they hope to create a dialogue that will guide and inspire more thoughtful conversations.

“Issues of racial injustice, issues of the LGBTQ issues, [and] all of the issues of inclusion are issues that our students are increasingly being confronted with. We want to help them not only know and understand what is happening but be participants in helping the world become a better place,” Lemmon said.