Change Starts Now: First Steps Toward Racial Justice


June 9, 2020

Dear Catlin Gabel Community,

In recent days we have seen widespread protests in Portland, the United States, and around the world as many march to call attention to social injustice and systemic racism, especially related to the Black community. Here at Catlin Gabel, statements of support that we made have led community members to share painful personal stories and ask hard questions about what we are doing to address issues of inequity and privilege in our own school community.

In this moment of collective reckoning, we need to examine our institution and how racism exists here, historically and currently. We won’t look away. We won’t be in denial. We will not let our privilege allow us to be silent. It is time to reflect, act, and make changes that are overdue and that our students deserve. It is time to live up to our responsibilities as school leaders to do this work.

Experiences shared by Black students, families, and employees make it clear that Catlin Gabel must do better in fostering a truly inclusive and welcoming culture of belonging. As a school, we believe that the student voice is of utmost importance, and we need to listen more closely to grievances of our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities (BIPOC). When we hear the pain of fellow community members, we know it is necessary to take action to continue to dismantle racism in our institution and in society.

Racism and its effects exist at Catlin Gabel, rooted in the fact that most independent schools were founded by white educators to serve only white students. We must understand how this history still informs the school today. We must create an environment where all students and families feel welcome and valued. Every student has their own unique experience in school, but we need to ensure that all students have in common a school experience that respects, recognizes, and supports their identity in all regards. That is our obligation to every family and employee. Steps we have taken to date to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive are not enough, and we must do more.

Thank you to community members who are sharing their perspectives and input with us. Please keep doing so. This will help inform further actions that we will take.

The following steps are a starting point:

  • Ensuring accountability for hurtful and derogatory race-related language and behavior
  • Prohibiting the use of the n-word from classroom instruction by non-Black teachers, regardless of educational context, and prohibiting the utterance or use of the n-word in any other context by non-Black students or employees
  • Providing access to safe and accountable reporting mechanisms for all
  • Training for teachers, staff, administrators on white privilege, biases, and systemic inequities
  • Developing anti-racist curriculum across the divisions
  • Hiring and retention of BIPOC teachers
  • Supporting BIPOC-owned businesses and vendors
  • Communicating outcomes and data annually regarding these steps

We are listening, and we will share more detailed plans for structural change in the weeks to come. We have work to do to create the inclusive, nurturing, and supportive learning environment that every student deserves. It is time for all of us to step up and do that work. This is a human issue, and we all play a part in effecting positive change.

In partnership,

Indira Nallakrishnan
Chair, Board of Trustees

Tim Bazemore
Head of School