Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

A Message from the Head of School

As a fundamental component of its bilingualism, diversity is at the very core of LILA’s pedagogical mission. Research demonstrates that bilingualism produces a cognitive flexibility that supports academic excellence. In addition, bilingual students directly experience identity’s contextuality when they toggle back and forth between different modes of personal expression.

The School’s diversity encompasses its French roots, American location, and multinational, multiethnic, and multilingual community members. We at LILA embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion as both core values and as ongoing practices. Learning from and alongside one another, we work to confront racism in our cultures’ pasts and presents.

– Michael Maniska, Head of School

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Charter

Approved by the Board of Trustees, the School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Charter was published and rolled out to the community in early 2021. The Charter was crafted by the Board’s DEI Subcommittee which included parent volunteers as well as Board, faculty, and staff members. Our Charter sets out a road map for our LILA community moving forward.

The French / American Perspective

The International School of Los Angeles (LILA) is an American independent school which uses the French educational system as the foundation for its curriculum. One of LILA’s unique challenges regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion stems from differences between French and American understandings of race and diversity, differences that emerge from the two countries’ histories and legal traditions. In both countries, however, we can see contradictions between political ideals and historical realities. The United States based its bid for independence on the claim that “all men are created equal.” Yet, the country must confront a long history of settler colonialism, indigenous displacement and genocide, slavery, de jure and de facto racial segregation, police brutality, and overt racism, most noticeably promulgated in the recent resurgence of militant white supremacist groups. France, for its part, cherishes the doctrine of “colorblind universalism,” which frames any acknowledgement of racial difference to be, in and of itself, racist. This relatively modern principle, however, fails to acknowledge the deeply entrenched power differentials and economic disparities created by France’s long history of colonialism in North Africa and the Caribbean, the Vichy regime’s complicity with Nazi racial ideologies, and the modern French police force’s emergence from colonial and authoritarian power. If we disavow differences in wealth and opportunity created by centuries of unequal treatment, we perpetuate rather than mitigate racial inequalities. LILA is committed to creating a culture of inquiry and critique that will cultivate positive engagement with our countries’ long legacies of racism.

Le Lycée International de Los Angeles (LILA) est une école indépendante américaine qui utilise le système éducatif français comme base de son programme. Le LILA doit relever un défi unique en matière de diversité, d’équité et d’inclusion. Un défi majeur pour une école internationale à la jonction de deux identités, la culture française et la culture américaine. Ainsi, notre école s’évertue à trouver l’équilibre le plus juste entre deux concepts gérés différemment dans chaque société: l’égalité raciale et la diversité. La France défend une vision universaliste dite “colorblind” des individus s’appuyant sur une lecture littérale de l’inanité de la notion de la race, c’est-à-dire un « modèle assimilationniste » se réclamant de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen du 26 août 1789 n’interdit pas seulement les discriminations, c’est-à-dire les distinctions qui désavantagent une catégorie de citoyens par rapport à une autre, mais bien toute « distinction ». Les Etats-Unis pour leur part ont mis en place l’« affirmative action » dite discrimination positive pour tenter d’apaiser la longue histoire d’esclavage, de ségrégagtion et de racisme. Deux visions, deux histoires différentes, mais un objectif commun qui reste d’actualité encore aujourd’hui dans nos deux sociétés : la lutte pour l’égalité raciale. De fait, indépendamment de leurs différences historiques et juridiques, LILA reconnaît que la discrimination reste ancrée dans les sociétés américaine et française, et s’efforce par tous les moyens et pour un futur plus juste de cultiver un environnement scolaire intentionnel de diversité, d’équité et d’inclusion pour l’épanouissement de tous les élèves dans des valeurs communes de rassemblement, d’humanisme et de tolérance.

Our Work

At the elementary level, the Academic Team, moving authentically and in phases, is engaged in a deliberate review of curriculum and texts. An audit of themed books in cycle 1 has begun. Teachers are gradually discovering exciting new books in which student well-being is at the center, and all students can encounter mirrors of themselves. The broader aim is to begin revision of the LILA core literature list. The Academic Team is working to integrate our existing moral and civic education progression – which places a priority in cycle 1 (preschool, pre-K, and K) on kindness and student well-being and in cycles 2 (1st – 3rd grade) and 3 (4th – 6th grade) on moral and civic education – with other areas of study and to make it more explicit in our DEI efforts.

In parallel, in the English curriculum, through the study of literature, students are exposed to many voices and experiences. Authors and texts representing different countries and cultures, regions and religions, time periods, and genres are introduced in middle school and studied in greater depth in high school. In middle school, students study life in Afghanistan, the Civil Rights Movement, and the effects of censorship. Students learn to engage with sensitive topics, communicate their ideas respectfully, and listen with empathy. They go on in high school to study American voices, such as James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Joan Didion. Students analyze the politics of race, gender, culture, and identity. Also included are voices from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as represented by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Marjane Satrapi, and Arundhati Roy. Their stories of migration and marginalization, assimilation and discrimination, and the lasting effects of colonization promote a deeper engagement and understanding of issues relating to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion around the world. Authors that represent the canon are also studied, however. Students analyze the works of William Shakespeare, George Orwell, and Mary Shelley through the lens of racial equality, representations of the other, and social class mobility. As a result, students learn to evaluate movements that instigate social change and navigate a dynamic, divided, and uncertain world. Indeed, the best way to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is to learn to appreciate a myriad of voices and analyze how they are manifested through literature.

LILA is dedicated to providing as many educational opportunities as possible in the area of DEI. Farzana Nayani and Professor Camille Gear Rich have been featured speakers during school-wide in-service days. Faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the many relevant conferences available through the School’s membership in MLF and NAIS and others. For the 2021-22 school year, we are delighted to have worked with Rosetta Lee for teacher training. Rosetta has worked with each of our elementary campuses in rotation. The small group setting has allowed our teachers to engage fully with the work. Our aim continues to be to mentor and to help the teachers toward greater awareness and sensitivity. Rosetta has also worked with our Campus Directors in a ‘training the trainer’ format.

In order to complement the work on curriculum and in the classroom, employees have established Faculty and Staff for an Inclusive LILA, a school-wide group. This reading and inquiry series offers LILA employees a platform for discussion, for learning, introspection, and action related to issues of racism. The emphasis is on reflection. The group meets every month.

Our Dialogues on Diversity series was established as a response to the groundswell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement all around the world after the murder of George Floyd. Dialogues on Diversity comprises school-sponsored presentations from experts in the field. Speakers have included Dr. Derrick Gay, Professor Camille Gear Rich, Teresa Williams León, and Mason Funk.

Community Engagement

Our alliance, Parents for an Inclusive LILA, was formed to foster inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all. Our cultural diversity brings our 65 nationalities together. This parent group is passionate about creating a culture that values difference. The alliance meets about three times a year and the meetings are run by Juliette Lange, Director of Admissions and Diversity. The aim is both to communicate LILA’s DEI efforts and to encourage parental input and involvement.

From this group have come several parent-led and parent-run initiatives, including the following:

An affinity group is a gathering of people who share an identity (examples: professions, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, age). Identity is a prerequisite for membership.

Asian Affinity Group
This group aims to provide an environment that supports and nurtures our children’s development of their Asian American identity. The group also endeavors to dispel simplistic perspectives and stereotyping by bringing awareness that the Asian American community is a broad spectrum of influential figures that have contributed to American history and culture in significant ways and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Black Affinity Group
The group supports Black parents and families who have Black children, with a goal to connect Black families across the School’s different campuses in the hopes of creating a safe space for all students while focusing in on the nuance of being a Black person. The group strives to foster an environment where all Black students and their families can feel represented.

Español + Latinx Affinity Group
This is a group for those of Spanish, Hispanic and/or Latin American origin, including everyone who identifies as Latinx. We embrace the diversity within the Spanish-speaking community and welcome all who identify as part of such a culturally, racially, and ethnically varied group.

LGBTQ+ Affinity Group
This group welcomes LGBTQ+ parents as well as parents of LGBTQ+ students.

Middle Eastern Affinity Group
This is a group for those of any Middle Eastern origin or connected to these cultures through marriage.

An initiative that is for parents, by parents, The Bookshelf is an open, parent-led group that works to provide the LILA community with a monthly list of book recommendations that encourage healthy identity development, disrupt racism, and support open dialogue within the community, to empower children and parents to make LILA an inclusive, safe space for everyone. The aim is to bring together stories that portray a variety of voices, points of view, and experiences. Everyone is encouraged to recommend a book and contribute suggestions.

The Bookshelf does not reflect selections intended for use in the formal curriculum.

This is a group of parents who are curious, and who want to be courageous and informed about inequality, privilege, and allyship. The group meets every month to discuss a book or a section of a book. Everyone is welcome!

Community Engagement

Our alliance, Parents for an Inclusive LILA, was formed to foster inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all. Our cultural diversity brings our 65 nationalities together. This parent group is passionate about creating a culture that values difference. The alliance meets about three times a year and the meetings are run by Juliette Lange, Director of Admissions & Diversity. The aim is both to communicate LILA’s DEI efforts and to encourage parental input and involvement.

From this group have come several parent-led and parent-run initiatives, including the following:

An affinity group is a gathering of people who share an identity (examples: professions, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, age). Identity is a prerequisite for membership.

Asian Affinity Group
This group aims to provide an environment that supports and nurtures our children’s development of their Asian American identity. The group also endeavors to dispel simplistic perspectives and stereotyping by bringing awareness that the Asian American community is a broad spectrum of influential figures that have contributed to American history and culture in significant ways and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Black Affinity Group
The group supports Black parents and families who have Black children, with a goal to connect Black families across the School’s different campuses in the hopes of creating a safe space for all students while focusing in on the nuance of being a Black person. The group strives to foster an environment where all Black students and their families can feel represented.

Español + Latinx Affinity Group
This is a group for those of Spanish, Hispanic and/or Latin American origin, including everyone who identifies as Latinx. We embrace the diversity within the Spanish-speaking community and welcome all who identify as part of such a culturally, racially, and ethnically varied group.

LGBTQ+ Affinity Group
This group welcomes LGBTQ+ parents as well as parents of LGBTQ+ students.

Middle Eastern Affinity Group
This is a group for those of any Middle Eastern origin or connected to these cultures through marriage.

An initiative that is for parents, by parents, The Bookshelf is an open, parent-led group that works to provide the LILA community with a monthly list of book recommendations that encourage healthy identity development, disrupt racism, and support open dialogue within the community, to empower children and parents to make LILA an inclusive, safe space for everyone. The aim is to bring together stories that portray a variety of voices, points of view, and experiences. Everyone is encouraged to recommend a book and contribute suggestions.

The Bookshelf does not reflect selections intended for use in the formal curriculum.

This is a group of parents who are curious, and who want to be courageous and informed about inequality, privilege, and allyship. The group meets every month to discuss a book or a section of a book. Everyone is welcome!

Student Engagement

Middle and High School

Facilitated by Victoria Scotti, High School Dean of Students, participation in clubs and extracurricular activities has increased significantly to include participation by upwards of a third of our student body in more than 25 student-led clubs. Clubs include:

The Social Justice Committe (SJC) meets on a weekly basis to discuss civil rights and the fight for gender equality and social equity. The committee has advocated for more involvement in the BLM movement and aims to help students learn how to make positive changes in our society.

The Minority Student Union (MSU) is a safe space for everyone – minorities or not! – to share experiences, talk about issues, and explore the history of minorities in America. The aim is to cultivate an inclusive and diverse community full of allyship and open communication by sharing resources, welcoming guest speakers, and having open and honest conversations with each other. Representatives from the group are encouraged to attend the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) provides a safe space free of judgement, encouraging students to be better friends and allies to LGBTQ+ people. GSA is all about learning about the LGBTQ+ community, the struggles faced, the achievements accomplished, and the history of the community nationally and globally.

A student-led initiative, the LILA Gazette is the Burbank campus’ literary journal. In recent school years, students have focused Gazette topics on social justice and the current global events affecting our community. Read their Diversity and Protest Issue – 2020 and Black History Month and Social Justice Issue – March 2021.

The Lunch and Learn Program at LILA Burbank is robust and has a high level of engagement within our student community. This program enables us to showcase people from all over the world, inviting speakers from diverse backgrounds to talk about critical, timely topics like social justice and environmentalism. In the 2020-21 school year alone, we have had more than 20 speakers participate, including a Chumash Native American, JPL and NASA scientists, a transgender man who shared his life experience, and a woman from a prominent social justice organization who discussed the BLM movement.

The Lunch and Learn program is complemented by regular assemblies presented by Burbank Campus Director Ms. Harvey, guest speakers, or students. Increasingly, these student assemblies coincide with current events, focusing on issues of social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. Recent assembly topics have included a tribute to John Lewis, a response to the murder of George Floyd and the beheading of Samuel Paty, the storming of the US Capitol, Black History Month, and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

Our Commitment for the Future

People most commonly cite our school’s diversity as their reason for becoming part of our LILA community. Diversity, along with the closely interlinked values of respect and excellence, forms the core of our mission. These foundational values demand self-reflection, open conversation, and evolving practice in order that we as a community may fulfill the rich potential of our mission and our constituency.

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