Administrators at Trinity High School in River Forest recently announced a series of measures designed to demonstrate the school’s commitment “to bring change over the 2020-21 school year to better life on and off campus for all students and faculty,” according to a statement Trinity officials released last week.
During an interview Monday, Trinity President Laura Curley said the changes range from hiring a new HR professional who will oversee staff diversity and inclusion policies, and training faculty in the use of “Diversity-Responsive Teaching Strategies” to administering a Climate Survey open to students, alumnae and parents, and “learning about Restorative Justice as an alternative to traditional discipline.”
Curley, who was hired as president in November, said that six people have so far applied for the new HR position. She said school officials had been talking about creating the position at least since she was hired late last year.
She said the idea to implement diversity training came as a result of collaboration between the school and the Chicago Archdiocese, which has hosted Zoom conference calls each week since the pandemic-related shutdowns started in March.
Troy Cicero, president of MulticultuReal Communications Inc., will facilitate the trainings, Curley said.
“Our goal is to make the classroom at Trinity a place where open, mature, calm, rational discussions can happen that will lead to a more just environment for all students,” Curley said.
Trinity’s announcement comes amid national racial unrest provoked by the May 25 murder of George Floyd at the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Since Floyd’s death, peaceful protests have erupted in cities across the country and many institutions — including schools — have undergone self-reflection.
The reflection is partly the result of testimonies that Black and Brown students and alumnae have been sharing on social media about the racism they’ve experienced at school.
Last month, current and former students at Fenwick High School in Oak Park took to Instagram to vent anonymously about their experiences. Curley acknowledged that a similar Instagram account was created for Black and Brown Trinity students.
“I am aware of it,” she said. “Some of the things are from many years ago and some things we need to look at today.”
Curley said the school set up the anonymous portal online at trinityhs.org/diversity in order for students to share their experiences. She said the school’s marketing team will collect the responses and school leadership will review them prior to Cicero’s diversity training. That way, Curley said, he can “know what people are feeling.”
Curley added that Trinity administrators will also “look into shifting our practices from discipline to restorative justice.” She said procedures and protocols for doing that are still being worked out.
Trinity’s student body is roughly 50 percent minority, but its teaching population is overwhelmingly white, said Curley. The new HR position would work to bring in more teachers of color.
The new measures come as significant changes happen around the school related to COVID-19 and race, but also as the school experiences major changes in personnel. Curley, the dean of students, two vice presidents and the principal were all hired less than a year ago, she said. Curley was hired last November.
“Considering the state of schools right now, many things that have been traditionally done are going to be reviewed, such as discipline and absence policies,” Curley said. “So much is changing and it’s the right time for us to change as well.”