An Important Message to the Nichols School Community

To the Nichols School community:

In Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? he wrestles with questions that informed his life’s work: Where are we, as a society? Who are we, as a people? And, who are we meant to be?

The recent, profuse display of violence toward unarmed people of color, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and also going back centuries, brought into stark relief the harsh realities and structural challenges we must face in our country and within our respective spheres of influence.

At Nichols, we want to thank those who raised their view of our historic performance, or lack thereof, in fighting racism and educating thoroughly informed students. We have not moved as quickly as we should have on improving our school to be more diverse and inclusive. We affirm Black Lives Matter -- and we will demonstrate that.

We apologize to any of our community members who thought we felt otherwise, and especially to those who felt racism’s sting while at Nichols. That is a failing affecting you, as students of color. Just as importantly, we will work tirelessly to see that does not happen here anymore. We recognize that to live these values, we need to show immediate change, as well as an active commitment to future change.

To that end, and with full awareness of our place in the Buffalo community and the responsibility to lead change, we are doing the following:

  • By the resumption of school in September, we will have reviewed our curriculum, especially in English and history, so our courses cover the last 50 years thoroughly, and authors of color with diverse viewpoints are included, discussed, and valued;
  • We will accelerate, broaden, and reinforce our training for faculty, administrators, staff, and our Board of Trustees. In Dr. Alexander’s four years as Director of Inclusivity and Community Building, significant time has been spent training faculty in restorative practices, culturally relevant pedagogy, implicit bias, and strategies for creating inclusive classrooms and curriculum;
  • In partnership with our Parents’ Council, we will grow initiatives like our DifCon discussions, started earlier this school year with our Parents of Students of Color to share difficult conversations, hear them, learn from them, and be sure they guide us to chart new courses of action;
  • Our Parents’ Council now has a liaison to the Inclusivity Office, and at the Board level we have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee.
  • We have renewed our commitment to our Black Student Union members and will work with them so the older members can mentor younger students of color at Nichols;
  • We will re-examine our discipline code, to ensure that racism or unintentional bias is deemed unacceptable and deserving of swift action;
  • In the summer of 2019, a cohort of Nichols faculty and staff attended the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summer Institute, sponsored by the Education Collaborative of Western New York. Over several full days, they immersed themselves in training on racial literacy, equity literacy, and gender and sexuality literacy. We will seek ways to expand this training in our community.
  • And, looking forward to what we hope will be somewhat normal operations in the fall, our first parent/faculty book discussion will be about Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Anti-Racist. Past discussions included Debby Irving’s Waking Up White: Finding Myself in the Story of Race.
There are also longer-term responses that Nichols will implement. We will recruit and make welcome more black and brown teachers, coaches, and staff members. We also recognize our responsibility to the broader Buffalo community, outside our campus, where there is such significant work to be done that we, our alumni, and our faculty, can help drive and to which we commit. We are partners with the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, which has provided professional trainers for our freshman and sophomore advisors in restorative circle discussions, and we have employed these practices up to and including the last weeks of school.

Dr. King’s answer, “a deeply integrated, loving community rather than segregated chaos,” is what we aspire to. In the face of racism, sexism, classism, and deeply rooted systemic inequities, we will continue to explore and work toward best possibilities. Meaningful change comes with a price. The emotional cost, psychological adjustment of overcoming an “us versus them” mentality, and development of literacies to be active anti-racists, is worth the reward of a loving and inclusive community.

Earlier this year, as we reviewed our curriculum, Nichols adopted this statement:

“Nichols School commits to being a courageous community, grounded in equity of process and outcomes, where we can all safely and authentically be ourselves and therefore accept the challenge of our collective growth.”

Thank you for caring, for your input, and for your forceful efforts to see Nichols change. We are learning and agree.

Christopher D. Burner
Head of School
Ramone Alexander
Director of Inclusivity and Community Building

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