You might not be accustomed to hearing from parents like us, but we are part of your community. We live near your schools and make memories on your playgrounds. We take part in your camps, activities, concerts and fundraisers. Many of us are your alumni. Some employ your graduates. Some work within your walls. We are among your supporters, donors, volunteers and community leaders.
Most urgently, we write this letter as the parents of your current and future students. Many of us are white and have been predictably tentative in voicing our views on issues of race and equity in our region’s schools. We have allowed parents of color and parents of students of color to bear the burden of pressing an admittedly complex, challenging, and uncomfortable conversation forward. We have allowed inequity to be a problem for “underperforming” schools and “blighted” neighborhoods – certainly not our own.
Since we haven’t told you otherwise, you may have assumed that equity and inclusion aren’t priorities for us in deciding where to live and send our children to school. They are. For us, contributing to a more equitable and inclusive St. Louis is an explicit and central family priority. Daily, we make personal and professional choices to invest in shaping the diverse, connected St. Louis we hope to call home.
We don’t need to remind you that the decisions you make daily, too, shape our collective future. Yours is the groundwork for the future of the region. Your leadership will impact generations of lives, including our children’s and grandchildren’s.
We are a group of parents who are unsatisfied with St. Louis’s status quo. We know that there is a lot to love about our city. And yet, we are deeply concerned with the persistence and pervasiveness of our racial inequities, with our deliberate and enduring segregation, with our dysfunctional hyper-fragmentation, and with our inveterate resistance – both cultural and institutional – to investing in a future that serves more people well.
We are concerned that, without your leadership and support, no matter where we live, our children will grow up seeing our stark segregation as “normal.” That they will lack opportunities to know and befriend people with different heritage, family structures, abilities, experiences, and worldviews. That they will discount wisdom if it sounds different from what they’ve already heard.
We worry they will prefer to live in the comfort of sameness, even if it means relying on an understanding of history and politics that is convenient, decontextualized and unchallenged. That they will lack an understanding of how our national and local histories of racial discrimination are inextricably tied to contemporary outcomes and opportunities.
We fear that our children, no matter how well prepared academically, will be incompetent in matters of race, with a faulty understanding of how their identities are shaped and reflected by society, and with insufficient connection to and compassion for the range of human beings who make up our region and our world.
We wonder if they will know leaders who truly champion the greater good and complicate the comforts of privilege. We wonder if they will learn to navigate and lean into uncomfortable conversations, recognizing the difference between discomfort and discrimination. If they will be willing and prepared to stand up for those who are predictable targets of the latter. If they, in turn, will be prepared to contribute and lead in the “globalized” world they will inherit.
You might not be accustomed to hearing from parents like us. Now, though, we understand that it will require the focus and commitment of all families from all schools in all neighborhoods to address our regional Achilles’ heel – racial inequity – and provide both “safe” neighborhoods and “good” schools for all children.
We are aware of many educators and administrators in the region doing excellent work across their school communities to foster inclusion and equity. However, we know of others who have recently reconsidered, scaled back, or abandoned such commitments, fearing they will not enjoy broad support, or that funding is in jeopardy. This deference to the status quo concerns us.
So we will say it again: Your commitment to equity and inclusion, both in spirit and in practice, at the macro scale and the micro, matters to us. Your dedication to fostering supportive environments for thoughtful, open discourse matters to us. Your support for teachers to live as their full selves both inside and outside of the classroom matters to us. Your investment in the greater local and regional communities matters to us.
Consider this an invitation to help us see your commitment to equity and inclusion. Show us your resilience in the face of resistance. Show us how you empower educators, include diverse perspectives in decision-making, authorize and leverage relevant expertise in the community. Help us see how you incorporate best practices from beyond our region and share your successes with educators at large.
Show us that alumni and parents of means cannot use the power of the purse to diminish your work toward creating a culture of equity and inclusion. Know that unrealized philanthropic potential lies within this group. That those who can will support your annual funds and capital campaigns when we know we are partners, collaborating toward a future city in which all families can thrive.
We know many of you are already committed to a focus on equity, and you can count on us to roll up our sleeves alongside you. Should you not yet be convinced this is a necessary and urgent priority, however, expect to hear from us often – through classroom teachers and parent organizations, at school board meetings and conferences, through community and political action – as we are certain that it is.
This letter has 649 supporters.
Calls to Action: Parents, Educators, and Community Members
- Support this letter as a parent, educator, or community member if you believe our region and our children are better served when more schools deepen and broaden their commitment to equity.
- Share this letter with family members, friends, and colleagues, and especially with the educators in your life, telling them why it matters to you.
- Follow up with a conversation. You can use the letter as a reference or guide.
- Ask school leaders to share their specific commitments to equity with their community and region.
- Consult our resources section to learn more about or get involved with local efforts to promote equity in education.
- Connect with others at your school, whether through an existing group or a new one, and keep the conversation going.
- Hold school leaders accountable for taking action toward equity and inclusion within their schools.
- Attend board meetings. For public school parents, consider reading this letter at a meeting. Other parents, send a copy of the letter to your school’s board or governing body. Ask new school board and leadership candidates to comment publicly on this letter and their own commitment to equity.
- If you are an alum of a regional school, share this letter with current administrators. Perhaps reflect on your experience as a student at their school to shed light on why it matters to you.
Calls to Action: School Leaders
- Please take this opportunity, if you haven’t already, to communicate with your students, parents, alumni, teachers, and staff about why inclusive schools are vital for all families.
- Tell them what you’re doing to make your schools more equitable, including the bright spots and the challenges, and provide and promote ways for them to support your efforts.
- Share your training plan. What opportunities do your leadership, teachers, and parents have to deepen their understanding and strengthen their practice?
- Attend the White Privilege Conference and invite or sponsor other school leaders to attend. Attend the People of Color Conference and invite or sponsor other school leaders to attend.
- Identify and engage a regional mentor whose leadership on educational equity inspires you, and whose work informs you.
- Consult our resources page to expand your professional knowledge and network.
- Invite support from a wealth of regional providers.
- Share your plan for reducing suspensions in conjunction with MCU’s #BreakThePipeline initiative and Norman White’s Shut it Down Project.