An Update For Our Community

Dear TCS Community Members,

On May 31st, Trinity College School publicly stated its commitment to creating new opportunities for Black youth to be heard and understood so change can be realized in our community. The School’s statement came in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, acts of violence perpetrated on peaceful protestors, and the need to have what might be an uncomfortable, but necessary conversation within our community related to race and racism. We committed to opening a dialogue, to check in with students and to actively solicit feedback from them on how the School might do a better job of recognizing, valuing and respecting the diversity of our student body with particular focus on our Black students.

As a first step, on Thursday, June 4th, the School hosted an information sharing and brainstorming session to prioritize the voices of our Black students. The aim was to learn about their experiences as Black students at TCS and hear their thoughts and suggestions about what should be a focus by the TCS community in support of anti-racism. Fifty-two students and staff responded to the invitation to participate, and the session included small break-out groups intended to allow participants to speak freely.

This session was followed by an email to all staff and Senior School students on Friday, June 5th, which shared early insights as well as recommended resources and sources of support. Today, followed an invitation to students and staff who may not have been able to attend the June 4th session, to share their suggestions regarding the School’s approach to anti-racism via a questionnaire.

The information and ideas that were shared at the June 4th session, and the post-session participant survey feedback that followed, have now been collected and recorded. I wish to provide the key observations shared by our Black students and staff, but first, let me provide more insight into the discussion framework. The June 4th conversation was prompted by the following three questions:

1/ What do Black students at TCS want the School to know?
2/ What can TCS do now to support Black students?
3/ How can TCS better support Black students next year and beyond?

The post-session survey I issued on Friday, June 5th, posed three questions aimed at determining whether the participants felt the session was an effective first step and whether our Black students felt truly listened to and heard. The third question encouraged participants to share any missed or new comments they might have, in order to ensure no thoughts were left unstated.

Below are a collection of student recommendations (identified through the session and participant survey), that speak to how TCS can better support our Black students now, next year and beyond:

  • Don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations to address the current and historical issues related to culture and race
  • Offer staff training on culture and race issues
  • Strengthen our curriculum to explicitly teach about Black history and the realities of racism
  • Find ways to attract more Black candidates to apply for job vacancies at the School
  • Increase efforts to enrol Black students
  • Put more supports and resources in place so students feel they have key adults to freely talk to about, and understand, race and racial issues
  • Solicit the voices of Black community members to help further educate others in matters of anti-Black racism
  • Have more Black students in leadership roles to role model and use their voices to help increase inclusivity

We believe change must be born from the student experience. As such, these key recommendations will guide Trinity College School’s next steps as we look to ensure our Black students, current and future, are supported and have a respected voice in our community. We are committed to making important, effective and long-standing changes. 

Based on what we heard and recommendations of students and staff, the School will immediately act in the following ways:  

  • Anti-Black Racism Stance: The School commits to being a voice on the issue of anti-Black racism. As an institution of learning, it is our responsibility to set the expectation and assist all members of our community to become further educated in the prevalence and problem of racial injustice and inequity that remains in society today. We will not shy away from this conversation and we will state our position clearly.
  • Professional Development: Cultural awareness professional development, with a focus on ending anti-Black racism, will be mandatory for all employees of TCS and will commence prior to the new academic year.
  • Support & Resources: We will audit our support and resources this summer to ensure our Black students feel they have safe spaces for discussing the wider, current world events and, going forward, build upon trust and understanding with the support of staff equipped to facilitate these meaningful discussions.
  • Curriculum: This week, the School is establishing a committee with the mandate of ensuring that Black history and racial issues are more prominently woven into the curriculum of both the Junior School and Senior School. An audit of the curriculum begins now, with an enhanced curriculum to be delivered starting this September.
  • Hiring Protocol: The School is committed to enhancing the diversity of its faculty and staff. This is reflected in the School’s strategic plan. Going forward TCS will audit its recruitment practices for future hiring to broaden our reach to a variety of communities, including Black candidates.
  • Student Recruitment: This month, the School will begin to review and assess its student recruitment strategy and practices with the intent to increase the enrolment of Black students at the School.
  • Student Leadership Models: The School will review its student leadership models prior to the spring appointments to illuminate any barriers to participation as we strive for greater diversity.
  • Anti-Black Racism Task Force: By week’s end, the School will have formed a task force with a mandate to make recommendations on how to ensure that the voices of our Black students are equally heard and respected. The task force will include Black Senior School and Junior School students, parent representation, Black alumni, senior administration, faculty representatives from both the Senior School and Junior School, representation from the TCS Board of Governors and our chaplain.

Last week, as those overseeing our youngest students, our Junior School teachers facilitated ongoing conversations about racism and discrimination. On Friday, in an email to our staff and students, I called upon each of our staff members and Senior School students to commit to further educating themselves in the realities of anti-Black racism, prejudice and discrimination.

We will be sharing updates as the School embarks on this collective need for growth and development. The newly formed task force will look to engage members of the extended TCS community, including our alumni body, which spans across the globe. We hope you will join us as we play a part in fighting to end anti-Black racism for the benefit of our students, our community and society at large.

Stuart Grainger