Equity and Inclusion
Equity and Inclusion
“So God created man in his own image.” – Genesis 1:27
Equity and Inclusion
Philosophy of Accessibility, Equity, and Inclusion
As it pertains to Grace, promoting diversity within the school is a worthy and biblically-necessary goal, regardless of whether it is immediately obvious to our constituents, or makes the school more attractive or marketable in the short term. Fred Smith of The Gathering has said, “Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident. It may be that making the world safe for diversity is the most dangerous, foolhardy, and yet heroic task in the world.”
Adequately meeting the needs of diverse students allows the school to fulfill the following goals, deeply rooted in the mission of Grace: 1) to better and more fully reflect the imago Dei, the image of God, as a school; 2) to testify to the unifying power of the gospel; 3) to create a vibrant, rich educational culture that meets the needs of all students, equipping them to live redemptively in an increasingly-multicultural society and to preserve the unity of the Body of Christ; 4) to celebrate the aesthetic of a creator God who made us different in order to reflect His beauty and to teach us to love; and 5) to align our hearts and minds with our Lord as a school community– for those things and people to matter to us who matter to Him. Additionally, promoting diversity is a long-term economic sustainability strategy for the school, giving the increasingly diverse local and national culture.
The Grace philosophy is to celebrate diversity through the unity that the Church enjoys in Christ. God has designed human beings to look, think, and act differently across cultures, and different cultures reflect the imago Dei differently. For example, and speaking broadly, Western European culture (influenced by the Greeks) is rooted in the life of the mind, a rational, thoughtful expression of God’s nature and character. Conversely, most African cultures generally place heavy emphasis on the life of the spirit. In those cultures, the spirit realm, the work of the Holy Spirit, and spiritual warfare are more typically deeply understood and reflected than in Western cultures. These two broad cultural themes, blended with the manifestations from other cultures, more fully reveal and reflect God’s nature and character. The same can be said for the cultural themes of every cultural group. Therefore, diversity is to be appreciated and celebrated, as various tiles in the beautiful mosaic that comprise the imago Dei.
At the same time, followers of Christ are called to be a new nation, a unified people. We are adopted brothers and sisters, joined into one family by our Father’s calling, Christ’s blood, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The unity that the Church enjoys in Christ transcends all differences and binds us one to another. It truly captures what is also the American ideal, reflected on our nation’s currency: E Pluribus Unum– “out of many, one.” Therefore, a biblical philosophy of diversity must encompass the idea of celebrating and respecting diversity as glorifying God more fully, all the while promoting unity and love within the Body as a new culture that both encompasses and transcends the multi-culture.
A Culture that Reflects and Respects the Philosophy
In “The Dimensions of Multicultural Education,” James Banks advocates examining cultures and social structures within the school to ensure alignment with principles of diversity. (Banks, 2010). Grace administrators and faculty must continually seek to examine what underlying assumptions or subconscious practices may be inconsistent with the underlying, biblical theme of unity in diversity. What grouping or testing practices, norms concerning sports, fine arts, or club participation, subtle messages, unexamined assumptions, or “territories and turfs” are conspiring to send signals contrary to those that respect and celebrate diversity, and that promote unity? As these things are considered, it is imperative that we address a common misconception. Diversity is not about having the pendulum swing in the opposite direction or suppressing the culture of those currently in our school family. Rather, diversity is about bringing together multiple cultures in a Christ-honoring way that leads to each culture feeling valued, celebrated, embraced, and respected. The school family seeks to engage in healthy, loving, and measured dialogue among teachers, administrators, school families, and students to identify contrary messages and deal with them as a necessary precursor to promoting a unifying message.
At the same time, discussion and deep communication among those same stakeholders to understand cultural differences is crucial. What patterns of communication, social values (the dos and don’ts of behavior), preferred ways of learning and values of knowledge, philosophies of child-raising, and outward displays of culture are valuable expressions of each culture represented within the school that should be celebrated, enjoyed, and understood? Communication and teacher training in what is important and what is praiseworthy must underlie the “what” that is taught.
Implications for Explicit Curriculum
At Grace, curriculum is defined broadly, to include “all of the educative experiences learners have in an educational program,” whether considered traditionally curricular or co-curricular. Curriculum that embraces diversity and unity examines content integration, as well as other aspects. As Banks describes, there are several other dimensions of multicultural education for schools to consider, including knowledge construction processes, prejudice reduction, and equity pedagogy. (Banks, 2010). Grace leaders must contemplate and align each of these dimensions not only with the theme of unity in diversity, but with the school’s biblical philosophy of curriculum and pedagogy.
The first area to consider is content integration. The school’s traditionally strong liberal arts focus, with emphasis on “great works” of literature, includes works that are primarily western in origin. Great works of literature are important, but so are great ideas. In the humanities, attention should be given to ideas and values that are written on the human heart and that span cultural boundaries. For example, teachers could use works from different cultures that capture the cross-cultural concept of the hero who brings redemption, to deliver his people out of darkness. Or, the school could emphasize multiethnic works that capture ideals of love and integrity, of loyalty and honor; ideals that may be manifested differently among different cultures, but that are prized by all.
If the imago Dei is truly manifested differently in different cultures, yet more fully among all, curriculum leaders should seek out those learning experiences and opportunities that capture and celebrate those differences. For example, a social studies lesson or unit on death, demonstrating European-American expressions of grief versus African expressions of celebration, demonstrating how both are necessary and important to what God teaches mankind about the end of this life, could be used to capture this theme.
Grace teachers must be trained to understand how perceptions are formed and the manner in which cultural assumptions, frames of reference, and biases reflect the ways people interpret the same information differently based on personal context. Teachers’ understanding should be coupled with an appreciation for the ways that the Holy Spirit uses a shared biblical framework for interpreting revealed knowledge to unify a community of diverse Christians. Teaching students to understand backgrounds and perspectives of writers and thinkers, and their purposes for writing or thinking, should be compared and contrasted both with those of other cultures, and with a biblical perspective. A biblical perspective is preeminently important, because it allows students not only to examine and celebrate their own culture and those of others, but also to be “appreciative critics” of those cultures. A perspective rooted in absolute truth serves as a reference point allowing students to differentiate what is praiseworthy and what is worthy of criticism within one’s own culture, as when examining the European ethnocentricity of historical concepts such as, “the New World” and the “discovery” of America.
Prejudice reduction is another dimension for Grace curriculum leaders to review and consider. Grace students should continue being taught from the unifying force of the gospel and its message of love and reconciliation. They have taught that racism and prejudice are sinful, and that when man decries what God creates as good, it hurts the heart of the God we love. This has been an effective way to reduce prejudice in Grace students. Additionally, other types of experiences or materials, such as multiethnic readers, controlled experiments in experiencing discrimination, and exposure to the food, art, folk dances, and music of constituent cultures within the school may be considered to foster and eliminate prejudice among students.
Finally, Grace teachers should be trained in equity pedagogy, in identifying those pedagogical techniques and methods of instruction that are most culturally relevant and helpful for students of different cultures. Here again, in keeping with the idea of unity in diversity, it is important to differentiate at times, but also to underscore the importance for all students of all cultures to learn to work with varied types and methods of instruction.
Thinking through these various curricular implications of multicultural learning is extremely helpful. At the end of the day, helping students, and adults for that matter, to respect and celebrate the differences that God has woven into each of us, while simultaneously enjoying the oneness we enjoy as children of God, is one of the greatest ways our school can prepare its students to appreciate their Creator, and to live in and to impact this increasingly-diverse, multicultural world for Christ.
References: Banks, J. (2010). The Dimensions of Multicultural Education. In Curriculum Leadership (9th ed., pp. 88-102). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Grace has been a tremendous blessing to our family. It is a place that you can receive spiritual growth and academic enhancement in an environment that is Christ-Centered and grounded with family values.
Umbrellas of Accessibility
Grace Community School seeks to continue the possibility of Christian education for all families.
This happens as we seek to diversify our school family in three major ways.
Grace seeks to serve families whose children may need extra academic intentionality or support.
Grace seeks to be a school where ethnic diversity is represented, valued, and celebrated.
Grace seeks to make Christian education accessible to all families regardless of socioeconomic status.
The widening racial division in our country should drive us to reflect upon and align our lives with the compelling and beautiful multiethnic unity of Christ. We thank God that this is the vision of GCS and pray He will use this vision to bring change to our community, country, and the world!
Grace has raised its level of intentionality in terms of accessibility, equity, and inclusion over the last five years. This has been evidenced in multiple ways:
Creation of the administrative level position necessary to lead in this area.
Continual increases of representation at the board, leadership, faculty, and coaching levels.
Cultural and socio-economic inclusion established in the Grace Strategic Plan as a focus area.
Expansion of the academic success center.
Increasing financial aid to assist with accessibility.
Grace has seen growth in ethnic diversity from 10.9% in 2015-2016 to 13.7% in 2019-2020 school year.
Twenty percent of the students enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year were ethnically diverse.
Creation of equity & inclusion coordinators to provide extra touchpoints for families by campus.
The discipleship of our children, it’s one of the most precious and important callings we have as Christian parents. What a blessing to be part of an amazing school community whose mission is as deep as it is simple, to Teach Jesus.
Director of Equity & Inclusion/Men's Varsity Basketball Coach - High School
David began serving at Grace Community School as the director of equity and inclusion in 2017. Before that, he spent nine years teaching Bible and physical education at Lakewood Park Christian School. Most recently, David comes to us from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy where he taught Bible for four years. He has over fifteen years of coaching experience in basketball and football. Along with his work in the area of diversity, David serves as the men’s varsity basketball coach. David received his bachelor’s degree from Baptist Bible College. David and his wife Erica have two daughters, Nya and Raven. They currently attend Grace Community Church.
3rd Grade Teacher and Equity & Inclusion Coordinator - Elementary
Becky is a third grade teacher at Grace. She began teaching at Grace Community School in 2000 as a third grade teacher, but left in 2005 to be a stay-at-home-mom. In 2013, she returned to the third grade classroom. Becky received her bachelor’s degree from the Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Becky and her husband, John, have three sons at Grace. They are all active members of Green Acres Baptist Church.
Bible, MS Soccer, and Equity & Inclusion Coordinator - Middle School
Coach Hemphill has played soccer for twenty years, both at the high school and college level. He set the Georgia 5A state record for career goals with 115, was a First Team All-District, and District MVP selection. He played football for The University of Georgia for one year, and was a two-year starter for the Darton College Cavaliers soccer team in Albany, Georgia, earning All-Conference honors. He earned a trial for a professional team in England before retiring to pursue ministry. Coach Hemphill has coached soccer off and on for ten years. He served as an assistant coach at Lee County High School and Deerfield-Windsor School (Georgia). He currently coaches the middle school soccer teams for Grace and is an assistant coach for the boys and girls varsity teams. He also coaches a girls club team for FC Dallas in Tyler. In addition to soccer, Coach Hemphill has coached middle school and high school football at Grace Community School since 2010. He is also an online seminary student pursuing a master’s degree in Christian Apologetics.
Spanish and Equity & Inclusion Coordinator - High School
Josue joined Grace Community School again in 2017. He served at Grace from 2004-2008 as the high school Spanish teacher and boys and girls head soccer coach. From 2008-2017, he served at Belhaven University as the head women soccer coach and as a professor in sports ministry. Josue received his master’s degree from Marshall University. Josue and his wife, Andrea, have two daughters who attend Grace.
2nd Grade and Equity & Inclusion Coordinator - Elementary
Tara has worked as an elementary teacher in a Christian school setting since 2010. She has been with Grace Community School since 2015 and has taught second grade, kindergarten, and junior kindergarten. She received her bachelor’s degree from Abilene Christian University. Tara and her husband, Clay (Grace alum ’04), are newlyweds as of 2013 and are enjoying life as a couple.