Racial Equity Group
In June 2020, the EMS Strategic Leadership Team established a Racial Equity Group in the wake of the death of George Floyd and world-wide protests that provided a long overdue wake-up call to address systemic racism in our institutions and country.
The EMS group is made up of representatives from across the school to consider how we integrate racial equity into our curriculum and life together. A preamble to the group's working document states:
Eastern Mennonite School was founded in 1917 by Mennonites for Mennonite students. EMS has undoubtedly hurt people of color throughout its history, while offering benefits to people of white, and Mennonite, background. This included racial discrimination in its admission process up through 1948, when black students were first allowed admittance to EMS. [See a timeline posted by Eastern Mennonite University, which shares its early history with EMS.]
As followers of Jesus, we believe we are called to advocate for just treatment of all God’s people. The civil unrest of spring of 2020 -- in the midst of a global pandemic -- awakened us to more deliberate work to educate ourselves, engage our students, and be part of the systemic changes needed to address racial inequity in our school, local community and across the United States. The Racial Equity Group was formed by the school’s Strategic Leadership Team and held its first meeting, June 16, 2020.
Our overarching goal is to “know better, then do better” (Maya Angelo) one step a time…
Working Group members are:
- Joy Anderson, elementary music teacher
- Maria Archer, K-8 principal, co-chair
- Heidi Byler, third grade teacher and elementary team leader
- Mark Gornto, middle school English and drama teacher
- Debbie Katz, high school counselor, leadership team
- Lynette Mast, kindergarten teacher
- Shannon Roth, US history and government teacher
- Chad Seibert, PE teacher and boys varsity basketball coach
- Marsha Thomas, admissions counselor
- Gini Trotter, K-8 counselor and elementary peacebuilding teacher
- Andrea Wenger, director of advancement, co-chair
While hundreds of students have graduated from EMHS with an education that nurtured them and prepared them for the future, some students left here carrying hurts and stories of pain. We acknowledge that students of color perhaps experienced pain that has not been acknowledged. For that, we are sorry.
If you would like to share your story, we want to listen. In sharing stories, we honor those who have been hurt and hope to learn how we can do better.
Your submission on the button above will go to the chairs of the Racial Equity Group who will pass on to appropriate administrative personnel. We appreciate your vulnerability and commit to working sensitively with you.
Read the letter that Paul Leaman, head of school, shared with students grades 6-12 and the parents of students K-12, as well as faculty and staff following the death of George Floyd.
Read a June 23, 2020, article announcing the launch of the Racial Equity Working Group.
Training and professional development
June 29, July 1 and 2, 2020 -- Fifteen teachers, administrators and staff took part in a three-part training hosted by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, Engaging in Diversity, Inclusion and Equity for Organizational Change with Dr. Liza Talusan.
February 19, 2020 -- Paul Leaman, Shannon Roth and Heidi Byler participated in Virginia Association of Independent School's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference
November 8-9, 2019 -- Maria Archer and Andrea Wenger participated in training hosted by Harrisonburg's Faith in Action, facilitated by the Racial Equity Institute of Greensboro, NC, Understanding Racism in its Structural Form