This article will use the term White* to define a person who is for sure or could be perceived as White at first glance. White-passing means that even though the person identifies as being of color or biracial, the person’s skin is still light enough where the person is able to pass as White in some situations.
We at The Deaf Report want to make clear that none of this is said to invalidate anyone’s identity, culture, ethnicity, or family ties at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School [KDES] or the Laurent Clerc Center. The point is, “race” is made up of more than just culture and identity. Part of “race” involves how the world interprets the color of our skin and treats us accordingly based on that perception, and it directly affects how we move through the world every day. There is often a toxic dynamic that develops within “diverse” spaces where only the most privileged of marginalized identities are accommodated (i.e., POC staff with light skin are given more privilege or favorable treatment compared to POC staff with dark skin).
The Deaf Report reviewed a compilation of pictures from the KDES official website, Gallaudet University’s staff directory, online social networks as well as other sources, and tried our best to verify that the search results matched the actual KDES faculty It is important to note that, as a disclaimer, our list of staff and teaching faculty may not or may be updated, as we discovered conflicting information for some names on whether they are still employed with KDES or the Laurent Clerc Center for the 2019-2020 school year.
Out of seven names for the KDES’ Instructional Leadership Team, five are White* and two are POC. From the 24 names we have for administrative, operational and student services, 16 are White*, two are POC, five are unknown, and one is possibly White* (that remains to be verified). We have 32 names for teaching faculty, which is strictly limited to teachers and teacher aides, and 22 are White*, eight are POC, and two are unknown. Put in other words, so far we have 63 employees at KDES with 43 being White*, 12 being POC, seven being unknown, and one being an unverified White*. This means that roughly, over 2/3 of KDES employees are White* while over 8/10 of KDES students are POC for the 2019-2020 school year (112 students), and we were able to verify the accuracy of the student demographics with a check of reports from the National Center for Education Statistics.
We want to add that, according to the Clerc Center Assessment Report, for the 2015-2016 school year, KDES had 106 students and over 2/3 of their students were POC so this is a 12% increase of POC students in just four years.
In theory, the faculty and staff at a school are supposed to be representative of the student population, and this is not happening at KDES. KDES is under the administration of the Laurent Clerc Center, which is a part of Gallaudet University. The majority of KDES staff is White*, and it seems that nobody stopped to think about or question their hiring practices? The Laurent Clerc Center has access to students as early as kindergarten and, as Bettina Love explains, high school is the prime time to start recruitment for future teachers. What has the Laurent Clerc Center and KDES has done to elevate students of color who may be interested in becoming teachers?
Last year in August, KDES announced that Lia Bengston, Lisa Montalvo, and Taiyabah Naeem are the Laurent Clerc Center’s inclusive excellence ambassadors in liaison with the Division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Gallaudet University and they will be put to task in reviewing the policies, practices, and procedures related to equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the campus.
There is also the concern of the “hidden curriculum,” which would be the unwritten, unofficial and (often times) unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that K-12 students learn at school. For example, it is common for K-12 students to learn the White version of American history instead of the actual truth. How much effort does KDES put into unpacking and dismantling the hidden curriculum? That, we cannot answer.
A workshop on inclusive schools for student success was hosted at KDES with Dr. Elavie Ndura and Mr. Santini at the helm, also last year in August. Still, Deaf communities of color have a right to be concerned. White educators do not enter the profession with an intention of harming children of color, but they “will hurt a child whose culture is viewed as an afterthought,” and educators of color are a critical asset for students in learning how to confront issues of racism (Bettina Love).
The Deaf Report also acknowledges that the issue of employee diversity in educational contexts is not limited to just KDES… it is a systemic issue affecting K-12 institutes for the Deaf across the United States.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on The Deaf Report under the same author. This article has been placed on Deaf Vee Journal for archiving purposes.