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Background

Since 2017, La Salle has enrolled three cohorts of administrators, faculty, and staff in a one-year certificate program in equity leadership with our partners at the Center for Equity and Inclusion, a consulting agency focused on advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts within organizations, education systems, and communities.

By July 2020, La Salle had 13 CEI certified equity leaders on the school’s Equity Team. La Salle’s leadership team also provided, for three consecutive years, professional development in equity issues to all of La Salle’s faculty and staff.

La Salle also explored, as a community, the following themes over three years:

  • Understanding Identity (2017-18) 
  • Building Empathy (2018-19) 
  • Engaging in Dialogue (2019-20)
  • Foundations in Cultural Effectiveness (2020-21)
  • Developing Self-awareness (2021-22)

 
These community explorations included:

  • Classroom discussions of equity
  • Assemblies where students and staffers shared personal stories and experiences related to racial and gender injustice
  • Support of students launching affinity organizations such as the Black Student Union, the Asian Pacific Islander Club, Middle Eastern Student Union, Unidos for Latinx students, and the Pride Alliance
  • Parent Equity meetings where family members shared stories, offered perspectives, and contributed to initiatives aimed at improving equitable outcomes for La Salle’s students of color
  • New hire practices, with the goal of hiring for diversity, include expanding recruitment targets to attract a diverse applicant pool, reviewing job descriptions prior to posting to ensure equitable qualifications are stated, revising interview questions to reflect diversity in the workforce and a neutral review of applicant qualifications following a posting

 
La Salle also took these steps to fortify its staff to make it more inclusive and supportive of students of color:

  • The addition, in 2019, of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Support position to the staff to build community with students and serve as a support and advocate for students of color
  • The addition, in 2020, of a new Director of Equity and Inclusion position to the staff to increase La Salle Prep’s diversity, support students of color, expand our community’s cultural competency, promote academic excellence, and prepare all students to engage equitably in an increasingly complex and global community.

'Make justice your aim'

In an open letter to the La Salle community, President/principal Andrew Kuffner urges all Lasallians to come together to stop the spread of racism

 

June 1, 2020 

Dear La Salle Community,

“Learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.”   Isaiah 1:17

Our country is openly wounded and hurting. Institutional, systemic, and generational racism and disparities are visible, profound, and deeply impactful. We have constant reminders like this past week when we witnessed another black life taken - George Floyd - this time under the knee of a white police officer. Recent stories like those of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery compound the impact. These tragedies are not isolated. But they are indicative and they call us to action - to disrupt, dismantle, and neutralize racism and oppression. We raise the voice of our mission and the voices of those silenced and marginalized in a clear and comprehensive chorus to unequivocally state: Racism is an evil cancer and we must come together to stop its spread and treat what it has infected.

St John Baptist De La Salle opened his first school in France during a time of deep institutional disparity, systemic inequity, generational poverty, conflict, and suffering. He was led by God’s providence to address the need in front of him through the academic, social, and spiritual education of young people regardless of their circumstances. We inherit this mission and continue to reanimate it in our students today.

Many students entrusted to our care are hurting, angry, and afraid. In Lasallian education, we often say that students learn most powerfully by our example. Our students are watching and learning and integrating their experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. The banners hanging in our main hall outline what we aspire to, but can only be living ideals when accompanied by actions and behaviors. We are called to provide a relevant and meaningful education in order to cultivate the conditions necessary to illuminate the inherent dignity, value, and goodness of each student.

Our schoolwide diversity, equity, and inclusion work is ongoing. And in response to the current local and national situation, our faculty and staff equity team will be inviting students to participate in dialogue, critical thinking, praying, listening, sharing and reflecting as a way to support them as they process what they are witnessing and feeling. Details on this opportunity will be posted to Schoology; any student is welcome to participate.

We wish we could be physically together at this time, joining hand in hand and wrapping each other in an embrace that supports and lifts each other up. While this is not possible with social distancing expectations, we can still come together with our voices and our prayers to affirm our mission as a Lasallian family. We want all of our students - and right now, especially our black students - to know and feel the love and support of this community. This is an essential step in opening a window for healing, and a critical foundation that will carry all of us forward.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts,

Andrew Kuffner
President/Principal

Published 

 

'Make way for meaningful change'

July 13, 2020 letter to the community from President/Principal Andrew Kuffner 

After ‘taking a knee,’ border bishop gets a call from the Pope

 

Dear La Salle Community,

I write this letter as part of La Salle Prep’s continued response to the unrest in the world around us. My hope is that it can serve as an opportunity to reflect and affirm our shared Lasallian mission, and to provide context to the direction we are headed and the changes we need to make in order to more fully carry out our mission.

The photo and news article above recount the supportive phone call that a Dallas, Texas, bishop received from Pope Francis after the bishop took a knee and held a “Black Lives Matter'' sign in solidarity with other clergy kneeling to protest the killing of George Floyd. The story affirmed to me that the work of rooting out racism, of standing with the victimized, oppressed, and marginalized, and of taking time to reflect and pray was something my Church was calling me to do. It affirmed that there is no distance between the Church’s stance on life issues and the statement that Black lives matter. It affirmed that now is the time to take action, upend, and expand our comfort zones to make way for meaningful change. It reminded me that we bear the responsibility of being the voice, hands, feet, and heart of Christ in the world - and that right now, that heart is breaking. We must engage our students in understanding the truth and complexity of our community, country, Church, and world so they can serve as the voice, hands, feet, and hearts of healing, love, and peace.

I just finished meeting, via Zoom, with several alumni who are among the more than 1,200 signers of a change.org petition that calls on me and La Salle Prep to embed the truths about systemic racism, oppression, and marginalization in our curriculum and to do more to prepare our graduates to enter the complex and challenging world. I welcome the petition and this call to accelerate the shift we have started at La Salle. And I am grateful to these alumni for holding us accountable and exemplifying what it means to “leave to serve.”

No doubt, La Salle has a lot of work to do. Not only must we provide lessons that stimulate the mind; we must provide lessons that will resonate in students’ hearts long after they have graduated. We have already taken steps toward that goal, including requiring equity training for all faculty and staff, implementing student programming to explore topics such as identity, empathy, and dialogue, creating a staff and parent equity team for equity leadership, hiring for diversity, and reviewing student behavior policies aligned with restorative practices. In addition, we’re going to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion, engage in curriculum review, and create opportunities for current and former Falcons - especially those of color - to discuss their La Salle experiences, and amplify the purpose, meaning, and urgency of our equity work.

On our website, we have created a page where the community can learn about what we have done and what we plan to do to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at our school. The page includes links to some of the resources informing our efforts to create a holistic Lasallian education - rooted in critical thinking, dialogue, and our Catholic Lasallian mission - that engages all students, respects all cultures, and values all individuals. 

Thank you for partnering with us in this work and trusting La Salle to deliver a Catholic education to the students in our care. We - the teachers, staff, and administrators of the school - are as dedicated as ever to helping young people recognize God in all, to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and to take action to protect the dignity and sanctity of all creation. 

It is a tall order, but a necessary aim. 

Live, Jesus, in our hearts,

Andrew Kuffner
President/Principal