DEI Audit Concludes, Leaving Students Hesitantly Optimistic

The high school’s office of diversity, equity and inclusion. Photos by Olivia Brown ’24.

A third-party audit that assessed GDS’ diversity, equity and inclusion and identified areas for improvement concluded on Tuesday, May 17. The audit, which began last year as part of the school’s Anti-Racism Action Plan, sought to examine efforts following posts from the anonymous Instagram account @blackatgds that detailed incidents of racism.

The audit gathered information from student and parent surveys, focus groups and statistics like breakdowns of GPA and test scores. It examined many aspects of diversity, looking, for example, at the backgrounds of students admitted to the high school as well as whether the school’s curriculum covered a wide range of perspectives.

Sophomore Darwin Gu noted curriculum diversity, referring to his English class, where he has read books from a range of authors with a variety of different backgrounds. “It’s fascinating for me to see so many different perspectives,” he said.

According to a report sent to the GDS community and authored by Blink Consulting, the California-based company that conducted the audit, GDS has already established anti-racism priorities and has done work to further them. However, the audit found that work to advance inclusivity and diversity is “less equitably distributed” than it should aim to be.

“A lot of the time, it is the students who take that upon themselves,” sophomore Hana Sakr said, referring to inclusivity efforts. The audit noted the importance of engaging the entire community as well as educating people to “think diversely” and consider multiple perspectives.

A poster hangs in the high school’s office of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The audit mentioned GDS’ strong commitment to diversity, stating that the philosophy is likely grounded in the fact that the school was the first to racially integrate in Washington, D.C. The report added that the school should be clearer in its language regarding its equity work, its philosophy and goals and the importance of inclusion.

Julian Montes-Sharp, a sophomore and member of the Student Affinity Leadership Council, which works with the diversity, equity and inclusion office, agreed. He said he appreciates the school’s effort but feels that GDS has “almost regurgitated the same information over the years” about its mission statement, not necessarily informing students about the specifics of how the school’s mission informs its work.

Additionally, the audit found that GDS should compile more information to determine how effective its diversity, equity and inclusion work is. This information could include a self-reported demography of students who meet with teachers outside of class time for additional support, which would provide insight into whether all students feel included in academic settings. The report suggested a “diversity, equity and inclusion dashboard” to display general data on institutional diversity publicly.

The audit suggested a focus on “pro-Black antiracism,” stemming from GDS’ history of racial integration and posts from Black at GDS. Though Sakr appreciates the diversity, equity and inclusion office’s work to recognize all students, she said some ethnic groups still receive less attention. Sakr added that it is difficult to be aware of all the different identities and cultures that exist at the school.

Sophomore Clara Wartell said she values GDS’ diversity, equity and inclusion work. “The amount of affinity groups at this school is incredibly impressive,” she said. Wartell added that the school hosts assemblies with speakers “from all different ethnicities and sexualities” and that it makes “a good effort to expose us to all different viewpoints.”

Sakr agreed with Wartell’s sentiment and thinks GDS is “very good” at putting in “effort to engage the students” with all-school assemblies.

Junior Christian Freeman said he thinks students are treated equally at GDS, regardless of their identities. Freeman, a student of color, said that he feels GDS is one of the most equitable communities he has been a part of, and that he has been treated the same as his white peers “for a long time in a lot of spaces at GDS.”

While the email announcing the conclusion of the audit admitted implementation is a “long-term process,” the school plans to implement a strategy for the next few years to accomplish its diversity, equity and inclusion goals, develop the “diversity dashboard” and engage in a “restorative” approach to discipline in incidents of racism or insensitivity.

Gu said he is optimistic about the school’s action toward furthering its commitment to diversity. He said the fact that people are “thinking about ideas to make the school more inclusive, more diverse and more equal is good.”