Discrimination in Our Community: How ODA Battles Discrimination


You may remember a day early in December that was full of substitutes and missing students. Eight students and seventeen faculty were away from school attending the People of Color Conference in Tampa, organized by a group of educators including four ODA teachers. In addition to the ODA organizers, a total of While a total of seventeen faculty members attended the conference. Simultaneously, eight ODA upper school students attended a youth version of the event called SDLC (Student Diversity Leadership Conference).

Ac—Āording to the conference website, “the mission of the conference is to provide a safe space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. PoCC equips educators with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial and intercultural climate in their schools, for students and adults alike.”

Although our school might seem to have the same values, and no problems with racism, students tell a different story.

Even casual talks in school can sometimes have a not-so-welcoming word in them. Some people can make jokes or make offensive remarks without realizing it.

“I feel like many people are singled out in subtle ways that aren’t always meant to come off rude,” says junior Rashona Banks.

Discussing race can be very uncomfortable to some people, and some choose to simply ignore the issue. Some people might even be uncomfortable when referring to someone’s skin color and with the words like black or white, when someone simply tries to point out someone’s ethnicity.

Both teachers and students can be uncomfortable with talking about race. In English class, for example, the uncensored version of the Huck Finn has language that by today’s standards are seen as obscenely racist. Even some teachers are uncomfortable reading it. And that may be understandable, but even talking about racism during those times can create an awkward silence in the room.

Edith G. Arrington, a social studies researcher working with the SAAS (Success of Aftican American Students), offers the following statistics: 75% of African American students (in public schools) said they had to make special efforts to fit into their school communities; 82% reported that they had had negative experiences at their schools; 40% did not believe that the school treated all students the same.

But diversity is not only about race.

Mackenzie Grace, an ODA sophomore who went to the SDLC conference, says that students at the conference were asked to divide into eight identifier groups. Participants selected placement based upon a self-determined affiliation. Within the groups, they learned how discrimination may affect different people, and how those individuals in their groups coped with it in their communities. The eight core identifiers were the following:

  • Race
  • Economic background
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Ability
  • Family structure
  • Religion
  • Gender

The students worked in these groups to complete certain tasks and solve problems that required cooperation. They had a lot of chances to talk to each other and share their experiences facing discrimination in their communities.

While one might think that that ODA is not that diverse, you might be surprised how diverse we are according to the identifiers. Though the school does not track numbers of ethnic diversity within the school population, for example, multiple countries are represented and at least eight languages spoken.

With all these ethnicities and nationalities represented, the school makes sure they feel safe with the non-discrimination policy.

“The Out-of-Door Academy does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, gender, or national origin.”

Although the school itself may not discriminate, some feel there are individuals in the student body who do.

One source of the discrimination problem might be the media. On the other side of the issue, there overt examples of active discrimination statements. Recently, social networks and news headlines have been booming with racial comments from people such as ignorant politicians, their supporters, and racist commentators. Those words only boost people’s phobias for certain groups of people. Racism is illegal in many cases, and watching your words ould be advised.

Of course the school allows freedom of speech and opinion, but hateful words are not welcomed. Imagine if a person says to someone that they support the anti-Muslim campaign, and someone of that religion overhears them, how would they feel?

How can we stop this offensive treatment? Some schools try to hire ethnically diverse staff to eliminate the problem, or give assignments that talk about racism and discuss how it is an issue. Other schools have special programs that work with students to encourage interracial interaction in students.

Our school has the GSA club which fights for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, and works to eliminate homophobia. Forming such clubs is one way to combat discrimination, but what all students are encouraged to do is to welcome all newcomers. In fact, they recently got the non discrimination policy updated to include words concernng members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The website “Community Tool Box” by Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas tells that to eliminate the problem (discrimination), you need to find the source of it. Some people consider different things to be the source, but there may be many sources of the problem.

As for teachers, field trips to places of historical struggle against racism and places that embody the traditions and values of other groups will help. Including anti-racism education in school’s curriculum to teach students how to work together.

Ultimatelly, it comes down to what each person does individually in order to fight discrimination. Forming such clubs to counter it, and going to anti-racism conferences is effective, but watching your behaviour and being welcoming to everyone is the best thing that you can do.