What would you do if you witnessed someone being harassed? After the Student Diversity Leadership Conference presentation on Jan. 18, you might distract, delegate, document, delay, and direct.
Students gathered in advisories for the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) Assembly to expand students’ learning about the community and ways to de-escalate potential harassment. The assembly was hosted by Dr. Naomi Taylor, Director of Intercultural Life at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, and the SDLC team of 2021-2022: junior Maryeva Gonzalez, junior Asa Zirps and senior Sarina Charpentier.
The assembly started off with an anonymous collaborative poll with 321 SPA staff and students. The questions were divided into five main categories: self/background identification, safety, harassment, voice and equality. Students actively participated, and the live results of the poll were displayed in every classroom.
The second half of the assembly focused on education of the Five D’s: distract, delegate, document, delay, and direct. The Five D’s are used to support someone that is being harassed and emphasize that harassment is unacceptable. In the assembly, designed scenarios of conflicts and harassment were given to students to practice adjusting to micro and macro aggressions. “I really appreciated learning about the Five D’s. I have been both a bystander and a target of harassment in the past, and it’s really helpful for me to have such a concrete list of ways to prevent it and to be able to share the technique with others,” Zirps said.
The following day, Jan. 19, each grade advisories applied the assembly’s knowledge and drew “identity molecules” of themselves. The identity molecules were structured in an abstract web shape in which categories like gender, family, race, sexuality, economic situation, etc., were spread out on the sheet and connected in relation to one another.
Every year, interested upper school students have the opportunity to attend the NAIS Online SDLC and get inspired.
SDLC is a multiracial and multicultural online conference that allows students from grades 9-12 across the U.S. to unite together, connect, share experiences, reflect and develop cross-cultural communication skills. Through practices of dialogue and arts, students learn to design social justice strategies effectively.
The conference consisted of around 2,000 students across the country with 7,200 teachers and administrators. The meetings during the day were split amongst zoom meetings with affinity groups, small group meetings, large group meetings, and guest speakers. Some groups included Jewish, white ally, Asian, indigenous, African/African American, lgbtq+, etc.
The conference was a valuable experience full of adventure and a safe community to express your thoughts and share your experience. Gonzalez said, “[SDLC] gave me a chance to bring my truest self to a new community. In my everyday life, it’s sometimes hard to express every part of my identity for for fear ofng treated negatively because of it, but SDLC provided a space where I can feel safe and accepted as my truest self.”
Charpentier said, “The most fascinating thing I learned at SDCL was that racism is the fear of difference, which makes stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, institutionalized oppression and internalized oppression. The quote that resonated with me from Rodney Glasgow (the conference administrator) was ‘I’m going to do less because I’ve been taught that there’s no value in doing more.’”
In addition to that, actions of our knowledge need to be taken rather than simply implying that “these are bad.” Charpentier said, “It’s constructing how that impacts the communities around us and how we can change them by taking risks but going against the norm. Nothing can happen if we are all compliant.”
SDLC is an excellent way for students to learn more about themselves and become leaders in the community. Gonzalez said, “SDLC is definitely going to be one of my favorite high school memories.”
The assembly and the SDLC experience are both a step forward in the right direction in an attempt to make both SPA and our society a safer and more supportive place.