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Altamont's Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Chris Durst

The Altamont School is committed to continuous improvement in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are listening to our community and planning for the upcoming school year. We will share our plan in the coming weeks with action steps including training for all faculty and staff and involving Altamont students through classroom conversations, discussions with peers and faculty, and community activities. We want and expect our Altamont community to hold us accountable for our actions regarding this important topic.

While there is much work to be done, Altamont students and faculty have worked hard in the last four years to build a foundation of respect and action regarding diversity, equity and inclusion in the Birmingham community and beyond. The school's core values of respect, integrity and leadership are reflected in following initiatives that show a continued commitment to improving the fabric of society by graduating compassionate, well-educated individuals capable of independent thinking and innovative ideas.

Respect
Altamont values and has compassion for every individual in our diverse community. Our student body reflects 34% diversity with students from 29 ZIP codes. Through our curriculum, school activities and community partnerships, Altamont emphasizes the importance of respecting and understanding all differences that constitute our global and local society.

Altamont's involvement with the Equal Justice Initiative began in 2016 with the Community Remembrance Project. This project recognizes the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites for a memorial acknowledging the horrors of racial injustice. Eight Altamont students and two faculty members traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, to collect soil from lynching sites that are now part of the memorial.

Altamont students attended the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and each year since faculty and the entire senior class travel to Montgomery to visit the memorial and the Legacy Museum. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice honors the more than 4,400 African American men, women and children who were killed by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. The Legacy Museum uses interactive media, sculpture, videography and exhibits to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South, and the world's largest prison system. Before visiting these sites, students complete lessons from the Jefferson County Memorial Project (JCMP) curriculum. Additionally, Altamont is a community partner with JCMP. Two Altamont faculty members lead JCMP city committees, and one faculty member is a mentor for the JCMP fellows.

This past school year, two faculty members and five students traveled to Seattle to attend the People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference. The mission of this conference is to provide a space for leadership, professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools.

Integrity
Because we embrace integrity as the heart of Altamont's mission, we challenge students to demonstrate honorable words and deeds, to make courageous choices, and to exhibit personal responsibility at all times. Altamont faculty members recognize their responsibility to provide opportunities to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Jefferson County Memorial Project history and language arts curriculum for high school students was created by local educators, including two Altamont faculty members. These lessons employ primary sources such as newspaper articles, images, song lyrics and poetry focused on lynching and racial terror. The lessons acknowledge the difficulty of the subject matter and provide strategies to prepare students and teachers for conversations. Altamont students go through this curriculum prior to visiting the National Memorial of Peace and Justice. An Altamont faculty member was the co-chair of the curriculum committee, and another faculty member wrote a lesson on the memorials in Birmingham's Linn Park.

Humanities classes at Altamont weave the topics of race and inequality into the curriculum. Additionally, seniors take seminars such as Southern Stories, African American Literature, The South and Civil Rights, and Contemporary Political Theory.

Altamont's partnership with the YWCA includes:

  • YWCA's Heritage Panel training is an intensive two-day session during which students make a commitment to discouraging bullying, harassment and discrimination. Over the course of the training, teachers and students discuss important but often ignored issues that affect their school experience, such as cliques, race, gender, cultural backgrounds and exclusion.
  • Programming for 9th graders about accepting differences, for 11th graders on the topic of privilege, and an anti-racism workshop for faculty on the topic of privilege.
  • Every summer, a group of Altamont students attend YWCA's Anytown, a residential leadership summit that brings together 80 high school students from across Birmingham to engage in open and supportive dialogue, form life-long friendships, and share their cultures and beliefs while appreciating those of others.
Leadership
Altamont fosters every student's unique capacity to lead and improve society through active discourse, student-driven initiatives, and service to others. The following initiatives support Altamont's efforts to lead in the school and local community

Altamont's Heritage Panel, part of Altamont's C. Kyser Miree Ethical Leadership Center, is made up of student leaders who teach tolerance and acceptance through discourse. Every year, these panelists facilitate peer conversations by attending classes in each grade level to encourage diversity, equity and inclusion. In June 2020, the student panelists led three virtual discussions with 53 Altamont students regarding the George Floyd tragedy. More discussions will happen during the upcoming leadership retreat in August.

In 2019, the Black Student Union was formed by student leaders to support intragroup community development and provide the space to share knowledge and experiences as it relates to Black history and Black culture. Last year, the union planned the Black History Program and organized cultural lunches during Black History Month. Future initiatives include book discussions, community speakers and discussions, movie series and highlighting events that relate to the Black community.

Altamont intentionally manifests our core values of respect, integrity and leadership in our curriculum, student activities and partnerships. Altamont will continue to be involved in these initiatives and future partnerships striving to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the Birmingham community and beyond.


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