The Importance of Diversifying School Staff to Reflect Student Populations
The awareness of differences in diversity between staff and students will force schools to practice more effective strategies to address the racial gap.
In 2023, the student population will continue to grow in racial diversity, while the diversity for school and college staff will remain the same. What we know from recent studies is that four out of five teachers are White, while fewer than half of the students in K-12 identify the same way.
At the college level, we see a similar trend, where nationally 75% of faculty are White, serving a student body that is only half White. In terms of security staff diversity, one study reported that 82% of school security staff self-identified as White, even though the staffing of security personnel tended to be more frequently allocated for schools that had predominantly Black students compared to schools with predominantly White students.
The awareness of differences in diversity between staff and students will force institutions of education to practice more effective strategies to address the racial gap. These measures include hiring more racially diverse staff and supporting ongoing, relevant diversity training.
Experts in the field of security will remind us that diversity begins with strong leadership in equity, special care in retaining non-White staff, and having a clear procedure to investigate a potential violation of Civil Rights. Given the recent increase in hate crimes that are directed toward minority students and their families, we will need to be trauma-informed so that we can more readily identify triggers for troubled youth and effectively respond to individuals of trauma in a more sensitive, empathic way.
Finally, educators and security staff will need to consider not just the race of a student, but also the intersectionality of their sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion, and poverty level.
If history repeats itself, 2023 will once again see a disproportionate amount of Black students being referred for threat assessments, directions for reunification will be written on signs in English only, and a prominent violent death of a student of color in the community will be talked about by students throughout the hallowed halls of campus without a word from the university.
If schools and colleges can not only tolerate but embrace the diversity of their students on campus, in time, there will be an increase in student attendance, a greater frequency of bystanders reporting crimes, and students experiencing greater academic success.
By acknowledging and supporting the full spectrum of diverse student groups and listening to their concerns, campuses will not only be more aligned with the increased diversity of the youth we serve but possess an increased capacity to adapt to the twists and turns of an ever-changing world.
Ronald Lee, Psy.D., is a school outreach consultant for the Colorado School Safety Resource Center.
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