Parents Association Holds Second EJC Workshop

On Feb. 23, the Parents Association (PA) held its second “Supporting our Children as Allies” workshop over Zoom.  This workshop, which aimed to help parents talk to their children about being allies, was brought about again after it successfully ran in 2022.

Upper School Coordinating Clerk and PA Equity, Justice & Community (EJC) Committee Coordinating Clerk Nancy Margie explained that “parents last year had expressed interest in continuing the conversations … there were many more [scenarios] that could be explored.”

In both workshops, Middle School Counselor Julia Porter began the meeting with a welcoming statement to set the tone for a conversation around allyship.

Porter emphasized the importance of allyship for all children, not only for people of color or other underrepresented groups. She also defined what it means to be an ally — someone who unites oneself with another to promote a common interest, speaks up when they see someone being treated unfairly and strives for equity since “we don’t all start from the same place of privilege.”

Porter’s goal was to provide practical tools for children, especially middle schoolers, who want to do the right thing but also want to conform.

“Allies don’t need to be heroes, they just need to be a friend,” Porter said.

“You have to take those big values like being an ally and put them into practical tools for what kids can really do,” Porter said. “The truth of the matter is most kids are not instantly going to go to an adult when they see a difficult situation of injustice,” she continued.

Another important point Porter hoped to convey is that when people hear the word “ally,” many think of the word “alliance.” She explained that being an ally is not like helping the underdog. Instead, “you are actually helping yourself in the community by standing up for someone else,” Porter said.

After Porter’s opening statement, workshop attendees were assigned to breakout groups by division. Each group had a PA EJC facilitator who had attended a training session led by Director of Equity, Justice, and Community Natalie Randolph, where they learned to lead difficult conversations surrounding issues such as racism and sexism.

As Director of Parent Relations Kathi Webb explained, while the breakout conversations were informal, the PA EJC wanted each room to have a facilitator to ensure the space was safe for discussion.

During the breakout sessions, participants discussed possible scenarios and how allies could respond. Some of the scenarios discussed related to religious and ethnic diversity, confronting authorities at a traffic stop, the LGBTQ community, athletic and academic tracking, misogyny and disabilities.

“[It was] great to have the parents who participated be so engaged in the discussion and be willing to share personal experiences and discuss sensitive and difficult topics in a non-judgmental and supportive way,” Margie said.

Porter believes the workshop will benefit the Sidwell Friends community in years to come.

“It’s these kinds of conversations and these kinds of aspirations that I think make our Sidwell graduates make a difference in the world, do hard and risky things, and if ever there was a time when we needed to be in alliance with people and not be so polarized, I think it is now,” Porter said.