I’m thrilled to introduce you to Razan Abdin-Adnani, the newest guest writer on the Bee Line blog! Razan composed a gorgeous three part series for the blog on building inclusive school environments. This is the first installment.
Be sure to read to the end to learn more about the FREE WEBINAR Razan and RB are hosting on Thursday March 1st. We’ll be discussing the blog series and opening it up to questions from the live attendees. It’s going to be fun!
Creating an Inclusive Work Environment at Your School:
Ensuring Your Policies and Practices aren’t Discriminatory
Have you ever felt like you had to deny a part of yourself/your identity in order to be accepted? How did this make you feel? In many cases, we experience this on a personal level, but how does it affect an individual when it happens on an institutional level?
Over the last several months, I have done two things in order to have more a nuanced understanding of discriminatory HR policies—especially in the context of schools.
- I reviewed countless Montessori School Employee Handbooks online.
- I asked a group of teachers (who work in various educational environments) how discriminatory policies have affected them personally.
Here are some of the things I found:
- It is alarmingly common for Black women’s natural hair to be deemed “unprofessional” for the workplace.
- Many policies include specifications about jewelry. I noticed the term “Conservative Jewelry” used several times. In many cases, it stated that jewelry must be limited to small studs in the earlobe.
- A number of employees felt that their dress codes were unreasonable. Some were told the quality of their clothing wasn’t suitable for the culture of the posh schools in which they worked (e.g.-you should be wearing new/steamed/designer clothing). A few told me that their respective schools had strict policies related to hair color as well as nail color and length. One school requires their teachers (all women) to wear skirts or dresses each day.
- In addition to being deeply discriminatory (actually, racist) and an infringement on individual rights, the expectation that black women should constantly get their hair straightened for the work place is also a major financial burden on the employee.
- “Conservative” is relative. For example, in the US, nose piercings might be considered ‘rebellious,’ whereas in cultures such as India or the Middle East, they might be a decision that is a result of traditional values in their respective cultures.
- Expecting professional dress at the workplace is standard, but do some of our biases exclude working class people from working in our schools in the first place? Is it sexist to require women to wear a dress or skirt? Who gets to decide how red is too red with regard to someone’s hair? Or whose intricate, colorful earrings or necklace (perhaps from their country of origin) are too “distracting” for the workplace?
The unfortunate irony:
Despite all the discriminatory policies we find in these handbooks, they always include some Non-Discrimination Policy clause, which essentially states that the institution “values and celebrates a diverse workplace.” Many mention “individual rights” while simultaneously including policies which deny employees personal agency in making such intimate decisions as how they wear their hair, who designs their clothing, or what kind of jewelry can adorn their faces or bodies.
We don’t get to say our schools are inclusive or value diversity if they require employees to suppress certain aspects of their identities for notions of “professionalism,” which might be entrenched in racism, classism, sexism, and xenophobia.
So how can we mean what we say when we say that our schools value diversity?
- It will require school administrators and board members to explicitly review practices and policies through a race/socially conscious lens.
- Then, adopt policies and practices needed to recruit and retain teachers of color, from all social classes, with varying abilities, etc.
Our society socializes us to not ask critical questions about these things, but it’s time we do, so we can create the kind of inclusive schools that our students, teachers, and communities deserve.
B i o
Razan Abdin-Adnani is an Early Childhood + Equity and Diversity Consultant and Coach. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, a Master of Education with an emphasis in Montessori Studies, an AMI diploma at the Primary level and is a DONA-trained Postpartum Doula. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, dining out, live music, being outdoors, cooking, and learning more about educational equity.
W e b s i t e
S o c i a l M e d i a
H i r e
Razan offers workshops, webinars, consultations, coaching, and curriculum development services to schools, colleges and universities, families, and community organizations.
Her services are available worldwide via video chat. She is also available for travel. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the needs of your community!
Inclusive Leadership Webinar
Join RB Fast and Razan Abdin-Adnani for a free webinar all about building inclusive school culture.
- Thursday, March 1st
- 4:00 pm ET/ 2:00 pm MT
- 48 seats available for live event
- Live Q & A
Webinar will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend live.