All-girls and all-boys independent schools face a unique moment of reflection as they consider policies to support openly transgender students. How might girls’ and boys’ schools stay true to their gender-specific missions while supporting students for whom that binary no longer applies? Join this online conversation with girls’ and boys’ school administrators and representatives from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS), and International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC) as together we reflect on current challenges and future opportunities for educators to support transgender and nonbinary students in all-boys and all-girls schools.
Synthesis of Breakout Discussion Groups:
Supporting Transgender Students in Girls’ and Boys’ Schools Tuesday, November 15, 1:00 p.m. ET
How might your school stay true to its gender-specific mission while supporting students for whom that binary no longer applies?
● Multiple breakout groups wrestled with the existential question: “What does it mean to be an all girls school or all boys school?” ○ Discussions raised the ideas of strong communities, and single-gender schools as safe spaces for students to explore their identities and grow intellectually and socially. ○ How do these ideas converge with gender fluidity or a non-binary concept of gender? Can schools still create a safe space for transgender students to explore their identity and find their voice? ○ Some schools emphasized our commitment to our kids and the value of each of them within our schools and beyond, and to consider how their transition will impact their continued growth and development into adulthood, college, returning for transcripts, and more. ○ Overall comments across all breakout groups emphasized the need to support the student and keep them at the center, as opposed to creating hard and fast policies.
● Another thorny question that was raised was “Can it be inconsistent with a school’s mission to have a transgender student in the school?” ○ Depending on where the student is in their school career, can the school better serve the student by keeping them in the community or by helping them find a school where the mission is better aligned with their transitioning identity? ○ Some girls schools reasoned that there was mission congruence in aligning women living in a patriarchal culture with transgender individuals in a dominant binary culture.
● Some groups focused on the wording or underlying meaning of the school’s mission ○ Specific words and phrases pulled from mission statements, such as “to be rather than to seem”, creating a caring and diverse community, affirming the worth and dignity of every individual, can be explicitly used to rally support for students ○ With a mission statement such as “build fine young men, one boy at a time”, finding space for a transitioning student is challenging, but language focuses on the individual needs of each student, which creates room for interpretation.
● Based on Tony’s narrative, some schools mused on the difference between supporting the transition of students who are existing members of your community versus encountering transgender students in the admissions process. Most attendees thought there should not be a specific question in admissions applications to screen for transgender students. What have been the primary challenges to confront in having initial conversations around supporting transgender students in your school? What have been the most rewarding moments?
● Challenges ○ Shifting from a binary view of gender. How we understand what a girl or what a boy is. ○ Parental perception and expectations. They send their student to a school and the paradigm shifts. Not ready to have conversations with their young students about gender and sex. ○ Education of and communication with the boards of trustees. Using outside resources from experts (Gender Spectrum) or religious organizations (Episcopal School) is beneficial. ○ Admissions process when a student has already transitioned and the school may not know at the outset. ○ Boarding schools. Housing. Which floor does the student live on? Based on a discussion with a lawyer, the students are living on the floor of the gender with which they identified.
● Points to Consider ○ Go through the student’s experience minute to minute and analyze every aspect of your school to ask what can affect them during a transition. If we backtrack and experience our school through students’ eyes, then maybe we can relate with them when they’re exploring their gender expression even before they make the decision to transition. We want to support our students fully, and maybe this starts sooner than when a student comes to us with a firm decision to transition. Maybe more students need our support as they are questioning. ○ Anecdotally, the largest groups of students who are talking about transitioning are ages 4 – 6 years old. When we started to talk about the process, we thought we’d work more with older, high school students. With this younger age group, it raises the question of whether we can continue to serve this student well years after they transition?
● Initial Steps of One School Shared ○ We are gathering groups of faculty, staff, trustees to start an ongoing conversation about vocabulary, transitioning and gender fluidity. We hope to proactively learn about the gender spectrum and think strategically about our approach now, so we will be ready to help a student when they need our support (rather than reacting to the situation when it does arise). We’re thinking about the series of concentric circles of faculty we’d involve and inform so that a specific student is supported but also so that their privacy is respected. The better we prepare ourselves as a school community, the better we can support all of our students.
When my children went back to school last month, I couldn’t help but notice the new faces in the audience during the morning assembly for parents and students. As a researcher, I always find it fascinating to see how national demographic trends are reflected in my children’s school, particularly in the younger grades.
That’s where demographic changes are occurring at a faster pace than experts previously expected, and these shifts are having a direct impact on the student population and enrollment numbers at independent schools.
Wondering what demographic trends your school should track? I suggest paying attention to the following four.
The Decline of the White Student Population
Consider a main finding of the 2010 Census: The number of white children had decreased by 4.3 million since 2000,according to the report “America’s Diverse Future: Initial Glimpses at the U.S. Child Population from the 2010 Census” by the Brookings Institution. This report cites three factors to explain the decline:
All of these factors indicate that the number of white children will continue to decline or register minimal gains for several decades. This trend is evident when looking at the changes in NAIS schools. The latest DASL numbers show the sharp decline in the white student population from 74 percent in 2005-2006 to 62 percent in 2015-2016.
These changes may be more dramatic depending on your school’s location. The NAIS Demographic Center projects that by 2021, the number of white students will decline in several metro areas:
If your school is located in an area where the vast majority of students has been traditionally white, you may have some challenges achieving your enrollment numbers. To share an example, in 2013, when my daughter started Pre-K, the graduating eighth-grade class in her school was 77 percent Caucasian, compared with only 46 percent in Pre-K. Indeed, I’ve seen an influx of new Hispanic and Asian families where I live, a change that takes me to the next two trends.
Hispanics: Born in the USA
While new immigration from Latin America continues to be significant, it has dropped since the middle of the last decade. As a result, the number of immigrants from Asia has surpassed that of Hispanic immigrants since at least 2009, as reported by the Pew Research Center. However, while the share of Hispanic immigrants has decreased, the rapid growth in the number of Latino births has guaranteed a steady increase in the Hispanic population.
In fact, U.S. births have been driving Hispanic growth since 2000, according to Pew. The number of Hispanic children increased by 4.8 million from 2000 and 2010, the Brookings Institution reported. This increase was also the reason that the nation’s child population didn’t decline in that period.
New Census projections estimate that by 2020, fewer than half of all children in the United States will be non-Hispanic White — remember that Hispanics represent an ethnic group and can be of any racial group, including Caucasian. By 2050, an estimated 31.9 percent of U.S. children will be Hispanic (up from 25 percent in 2015), and 39 percent will be non-Hispanic White (down from 52 percent in 2015).
Private schools are a strong presence in many Latin American countries, so it may be easier to explain to Hispanic families the advantages of choosing an independent school over a public school. These parents can also be advocates for independent schools and help schools find more Hispanic families.
According to demographers, by around 2020, more than half of the children in the U.S. are expected to be part of a minority racial or ethnic group. At that point, Americans under 18 will be the front of a trend that the overall population will follow some 20 years later. By 2044, the Census Bureau predicts that no one racial or ethnic group will constitute the majority in the country.
But the new population also comprises Asian students, as we’ll see in the next trend.
The Newcomers: Asian Families
Historically, Asian American students have had an important presence in NAIS schools. In 2015-2016, they represented 10 percent of the total enrollment and 37 percent of students of color, the largest group among students of color, according to DASL.
These growing numbers reflect the national trends. The U.S. Census reported that between 2000 and 2010, Asian Americans recorded the fastest growth of any racial group at 46 percent. Moreover, projections by the Pew Research Center indicate that the Asian American population will continue to grow more rapidly than the U.S. population overall, reaching 41 million in 2050.
Immigration is driving this growth. In 2012 alone, 74 percent of Asian adults were foreign born and international migration accounted for about 61 percent of the total change in the Asian American population from 2012 to 2013,according to the Pew Research Center.
What do these trends mean for our schools? Depending on the country of origin, the new Asian families may or may not be familiar with independent schools. You may need to explain what differentiates an independent school from other private and public school options and the advantages that your offerings have in developing children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Also, you may need to clarify certain school practices, such as participating in school events and fund-raising activities.
A Generational Divide? Millennial vs. Baby Boomer Parents
In April 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau released new numbers estimating that Millennials had surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. Millennials, born after 1980, now number 75.4 million, compared with 74.9 million Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964).
This means that soon the vast majority of current and prospective parents will be Millennials. Although it’s still early, experts see behavioral trends that differentiate Millennials from previous generations and may shape the way they select a school for their children. Below are some characteristics of Millennials:
These characteristics suggest that Millennial parents may be looking at a different type of school and education for their children — an option sufficiently innovative to prepare their children for an unknown future.
How Your School Can Respond to These Trends
Today, more than ever, it is vital to monitor the demographics of your school population and how they compare to those of your area. You can use the NAIS Demographic Center and DASL to create comparison reports. Use these questions as a guide:
If your school is located in an area with an influx of newcomers, develop an understanding of the educational expectations of the new community members and a plan to reach out to them. Evaluate the channels you use for attracting, recruiting, and communicating with parents. Identify areas that may need fine-tuning. Do not assume that parents are familiar with the admission process and giving practices. Be transparent about the application process, and clearly explain the role of giving at your school.
When surveying parents, identify the key aspects, programs, and services that attract them to your school and ask how you are performing on each. Evaluate your strengths and areas for improvement. Understand how your school’s offerings fare against those of other types of schools in your market.
In the case of Millennial parents, your parent surveys can reveal how they differ from other generations of parents at your school. Your “coffee and chat” session may help you keep abreast of their needs and wants. You can also assess your communication channels to make sure they still fit their preferences or are the most effective ways to reach them. Consider ways to show them the value of the student experience at your school versus other options.
When it comes to planning for demographic shifts, some schools are out in front. On my children’s first day of school, for example, I caught a moment alone with the chair of the finance committee who told me that the school’s enrollment and finance committees had started discussing the school’s demographic trends and their impact on admission and finance. I was glad to hear they were already in back-to-school mode!
“Hi, my name is Beckett. You must be Mr. Selover.” He looked me in the eye and held out his hand for a firm handshake. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The Genius in the Format
The Elements of a Captivating Speech
- talked about water in their own lives;
- gave details about their families and their neighborhoods;
- shared their feelings and experiences;
- used the subject as a starting place for a broader discussion;
- structured their talks with a clear beginning, middle and ending; and
- made sure that both the start and the finish were dramatic and interesting.