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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Class act: Skinner North celebrates Pride Month
by Melissa Wasserman
2018-06-20

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Skinner North Classical School values diversity and, this month, efforts go toward highlighting the LGBTQ community.

Skinner North is a selective enrollment school that draws families from all over the city and educates children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The school's Diversity Committee has been around for some time and is tightly integrated with the school, focusing on things that happen during school as much as events outside of school. Danit Schleman, a parent of a Skinner North student and member of the Diversity Committee, explained the committee works to diversify the faculty, review some projects within the curriculum for a few of the grades, ensuring there is inclusive language and inclusive examples, such as representation of diverse races and orientations and different historical figures.

Schleman also credited the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation's Welcoming Schools as a resource used in helping to make the school's curriculum more inclusive and supportive.

Schleman added that this year another one of the committee's goals was to create more celebrations aligned to the months, observing different heritages and groups.

"We're trying to create an atmosphere where people do talk about it and do feel comfortable being their whole selves," Schleman said.

Schleman said the mission has always about building community and creating an inclusive environment. Before this year, she described, the committee and its efforts were more about including everybody, having events that welcome everybody and making everybody feel included. This year the committee strives to make an actively, visible inclusive environment.

"I think that the difference this year was that we were more focused on specific differences and highlighting specific differences," Schleman said. "I also think that a lot of the focus had been on race before, especially African American, like highlighting Black History Month and I think we've expanded more broadly to races and also started doing other differences beyond race, but it's definitely building on the foundation that was built there. I think the difference now is that like 'let's make it visible for specific kinds of differences, so people feel more like it's about them.'"

One of the Diversity Committee's efforts this year is the Library Diversity Project. The committee created an Amazon Wishlist asking for books by diverse authors or featuring diverse protagonists.

For Pride Month, attention was brought to the LGBTQ community through daily Facebook postings on the Friends of Skinner North page, "Pride, Not Prejudice" banners hanging in the cafeteria as well as in the front of the school building, a bulletin board featuring the history of the LGBTQ movement in the United States and kids' books in the lobby for people to look through, which will then be donated to the library.

I think people are noticing and appreciating the intentional effort," said Schleman of the responses to these efforts. "Some people have this visceral reaction of like 'that has nothing to do with the kids, we don't want them exposed to those subjects, those are very advanced subjects for kids,' but they're not. They're about families, they're about friends, it's about social/emotional curriculum. So, I think it's really just baby steps around that it's ok to talk about these things at school and that it's valuable to do that. Next year we can build on that."

To learn more about Skinner North and its projects visit, m.facebook.com/FriendsofSkinnerNorth/.


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