On December 21, the Gender Equity Task Force (GETF) gave a presentation detailing their recent progress and future plans. Formed roughly two and a half years ago, GETF’s mission, as stated in their presentation, is “to reimagine Concord Academy’s reliance on a binary gender paradigm. [They] believe that by examining and shifting our institutional culture and structures, students and adults who identify outside of the gender binary will be more equitably served by our program.”
Will Tucker, a chemistry teacher and member of the GETF, said that one of the main goals of the task force is “trying to be more intentional about how CA operates.” He believes that in CA’s past, the evolution of thinking about gender has been slow and influenced primarily by shifting societal views instead of the more intentional “critical progress” he believes is important.
Initially, the GETF was split into three working groups, each meeting biweekly and focusing on policy, physical spaces, and education. The goal of the policy group was to examine CA policy in order to make it more inclusive of all gender identities. The physical space group worked to reimagine physical spaces on campus, such as bathrooms and student housing, to accommodate transgender and nonbinary students. The education group focused on improving community awareness of gender diversity and ways to include individuals of all gender identities. Each working group met to discuss and examine issues related to their focus, culminating in recommendations made to CA’s administration for how to create progress.
A main focus of the GETF has been researching how they can best serve the CA community. Courtney Fields-Thomas, a member of the task force, described how the GETF “researched other schools’ best practices, and used outside consultants…We spent six months to a year gathering data from our CA community in 2018-2019, particularly from students around their needs.” Courtney emphasized that although this initial research has been completed, input from the community is always valued and encouraged. “We’re all here to help grow a more inclusive and equitable school through our group work, and we are eager to make more changes. Don’t hesitate to reach out with ideas or recommendations!”
Over the past summer, the focus of the task force shifted as the initial slate of goals was achieved. After recommendations were made, the working groups disbanded to form one task force that now addresses issues as a single group. The most recent objectives the GETF completed had a more logistical focus than their initial goals. These involved ensuring that the many different branches of CA’s administration, from finance to athletics, have access to the most up-to-date lists of students’ names and pronouns as well as knowledge of when to use what name (for example, a student may use one name at school and a different name at home); making names associated with emails easier to update; creating a non-binary athletic option for student transcripts; updating bathroom signage; sharing community expectations around gender; making changes to the handbook; and designing gender-expansive floors.
An important recent initiative for all students to be aware of is gender-expansive floors in student housing. Proposed as a solution to the binary nature of the student houses, gender expansive floors would allow nonbinary, transgender, and ally students of any gender to live in all or part of a designated floor within a given house. Community need for these floors will be determined through boarding life surveys. This strategy is an alternative to the initial concept of one gender-neutral house for nonbinary, transgender, and ally students.
Looking forward, the GETF hopes to continue the work they have begun by making systematic name and pronoun changes easier for all community members, working to make athletics programs less binarily gendered, creating a sleepover policy that is “inclusive, equitable, and unbiased,” and preparing to implement policy changes regarding housing and sleepover policy when CA returns to campus, according to Will. All CA community members are encouraged to engage with this work and educate themselves, and any students with questions or requests should contact the C&E office. Courtney summarized this sentiment when she said, on behalf of the task force, “We hope that in doing this work every person at CA feels more free to express their gender in a more liberated way and to unlearn their biases and assumptions about another person’s gender identity.”