Program Profile: School for Friends in Washington, DC
A strong focus on nonviolence, cooperation, and diversity keeps School for Friends connected to its Quaker roots.
Diversity is central to the mission of School for Friends. Located in a neighborhood with many gay and lesbian residents, it has always welcomed families headed by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) parents. For almost 30 years, Director Jim Clay has provided leadership in this area, modeling as a gay parent public support for family diversity. His efforts have had an effect. He says proudly, “Many of the ideas and policies we have championed have been adopted by surrounding programs, so we no longer have such a high concentration of LGBT-headed households. LGBT parents now feel comfortable in those programs too!”
Family engagement is also central to the program’s mission. Clay talks about his school’s high level of family participation: “As you may imagine, none of this happens by magic. A lot of encouragement and nurturing must take place to actually have families involved at this level. We always seek to find some way for all families to be involved and to have their culture honored.”
Family Engagement Program Practices
Family Participation in Decision Making
All teachers have benefitted from teacher “switch days,” during which staff swap classrooms with a colleague. Switch days help teachers get to know the children and their families better. Clay says, “Teachers find these days so valuable to get to know the children in another classroom, exchange ideas with other teachers, and visit with children they have taught in the past or with children they will teach in the future.” The school lets families know when these special days happen and emphasizes their significance for children, teachers, and families.
A Comprehensive Program-Level System
We are proud of our success in consistently attracting a diverse student population. At School for Friends, diversity exists not only in terms of race, religion, and nationality but we also have a longstanding commitment of welcoming children of gay and lesbian parents, supporting single parents, and welcoming families of all income levels. Among our children are those with different learning styles as well as many who are adopted. These are just some examples of the kind of diversity you will find at School for Friends; each year we encounter applicants who bring some component of diversity.
The diversity committee considers whether the school is effectively meeting the statement’s intent and considers other ways the school can address issues of diversity. For example,
Developed for NAEYC's Engaging Diverse Families Project through a generous grant from the Picower Foundation.