Guest post provided by Platinum Sponsor, Association Insurance Management Inc (AIM)
As our communities become more diverse, we should take extra care to ensure our PTAs are an open and welcoming place for all parents. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are necessary components for continued group success. The benefits of creating an inviting environment only further your goals as a PTA: involving more parents and teachers in school activities, advocating for the needs of all children, and encouraging more volunteers to advance the group’s mission!
PTA Diversity Barriers
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can be a sensitive and emotional subject. To properly prepare yourselves for the conversations ahead it’s important to have a firm foundation of what we mean when we talk about DEI. First, let’s go through a few definitions.
Diversity – the practice or quality of including or involving people from various social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.
Equity – the quality of being fair and impartial.
Inclusion – the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.
Now ask yourselves, “what demographics are underrepresented in our PTA’s membership and leadership?” Once you have that in mind, your next course of action is to identify what barriers exist that might prevent these potential parents and teachers from doing so. This could be something you can easily adjust, such as policies and practices, to areas that may require more dedicated effort to make changes or provide extra support in, such as culture and socio-economic issues. Below are some of the possible barriers your PTA may need to address.
- Parent expectations
- Member attitudes or interactions with non-members
- Cost or expected cost of your group
Policies & Practices
- Meeting format
- Activities and meeting topics
PTA Diversity and Inclusion Policies and Strategies
The barriers your group will identify exist not necessarily because your group has done something wrong, but simply something your group can be better at addressing. For example, in your recruitment, have you made an effort to interact with every parent and not just the ones that seek your group out? Asking every parent you have access to, lets everyone know they are welcome and wanted in your organization.
Remember to listen closely and make new members feel heard. The meeting topics they bring to discuss may be affecting them and other parents in similar situations more than you know. Be relevant to families’ of all needs and make an effort to assist where you can.
If you have a newsletter or make flyers to help with recruitment, ensure your messaging conveys that you believe every parent or guardian can be a valuable addition to your PTA. Be all-inclusive in your messaging to avoid tokenism — the practice of making a symbolic-only effort, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups, to give the appearance of DEI. People will want to join your group because you show that you recognize the value they bring as a parent or teacher, not a demographic.
If you’re worried about treading in the wrong direction or making a mistake, you may find creating a PTA diversity and inclusion policy can help keep you on track. Your diversity and inclusion policy should include parameters of non-discrimination and provide a system for members to report offenses safely.
Actionable Steps Your PTA Can Take to Increase Diversity
Understanding the LGBTQ+ Community
Before you speak with new parents and teachers, it can be beneficial to ensure your group is ready for interactions with new people interested in joining, including members of the LGBTQ+ communities. To avoid confusion or inappropriate language from your members, try creating a list of LGBTQ+ terms and help your recruiting members use the terms appropriately.
If you’re interested in taking your PTA’s sensitivity education a step further, host an anti-bias training or workshop for teachers and group members. Or, consider inviting guest speakers to your meetings who can provide guidance and perspective on specific subjects you’re concerned about.
Overcoming Financial Barriers
Has your group ever considered starting member sponsorships? PTA membership fees may be a deterrent for parents or guardians with tight household finances. Group sponsorships encourage eager and willing parents of all financial means to join your group.
Another way to address financial barriers is to consider outside financial issues families may face. For example, your school may not be the most convenient location for all members when it comes to group meetings and events. You can help by finding more accessible venues that are central to the majority of members. Distance can be especially relevant if your school is a magnet or charter school. Working with your members to develop PTA carpool options can be an additional option.
More Ways to Increase Your Group’s DEI
If you’re looking for a way your group can learn, support, and celebrate other cultures, create a PTA diversity calendar! Your diversity calendar can include important holidays from other cultures, and your group can plan support for or around these dates.
If you’re unsure how you can set goals for diversity and inclusion that aim for real results try creating a PTA diversity chair/task force. Your task force can be in charge of creating SMART goal(s) your group can work towards.
A SMART goal is used to help guide goal setting. SMART goal stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goal. These criteria aim to focus your efforts and increase the probability of success. Your goal might aim to increase diversity, inclusion, and equity in your PTA; a SMART goal will help your group understand what that goal looks like and how to measure your results against the goal.
PTA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Education
Of course, making an effort to grow your PTA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion is just the start. Your group can make DEI effects that ripple out across your school, creating an open and welcoming school environment the provides access to and represents all your school’s students and parents.
A great way to start is to search for opportunities to diversify the people and voices in the school’s books, art, and class lessons. It’s essential for children of different races, religions, gender identities, and more to see their own identities and experiences reflected in the school’s art, science, and literature.
You can also advocate for your school’s history lessons and resources to include different and more varied subject perspectives. This can even bring opportunities to learn and celebrate other cultures and the importance of avoiding stereotypes. Work with your school’s teachers to include supplemental materials or even invite guest speakers to share their experience and knowledge with students.
Protect Your Directors and Officers
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a complicated and difficult subject to address with sensitivity and empathy. Your group should expect it will take some time and practice before you get things right, and some people may be more resistant to change. If you’re worried someone could sue the officers of your PTA for mismanagement, misrepresentations, dissemination of false or misleading information, or inappropriate actions, AIM’s Directors and Officers Liability Coverage can help. Or, Contact AIM for more information.
Your effort to create a welcoming environment for your parents, teachers, and students is an honorable one, and we applaud you for being the change you want to see in the world.