Fairness and belonging are the right of every person, both in and out of our school system. Efforts to create equity and inclusion at any level – classroom, school, community, society – are linked to a worldwide movement to achieve respect for all human rights. Teachers and school staff everywhere are engaged in this work all the time, though we may not have identified it as such. Any teacher who tries to create a classroom environment characterized by fairness and belonging, where differences and commonalities are acknowledged and embraced, is making a contribution to this movement.
Creating environments that foster equity and inclusive education is as much a process as an outcome. Those who are engaged in this work strive to identify and remove barriers to full participation in society, while simultaneously seeking to create new conditions that promote equity and inclusion. Our vision is a society where the full range of different human needs, experiences, values and perspectives are recognized, respected, appreciated and validated.
Working to achieve equity and inclusion is a collective endeavour. Everyone’s rights are jeopardized when anyone’s rights are threatened. When we strive to ensure that one group’s rights are respected, we are advancing the rights of all.
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller
Equitable and inclusive schools
How does this vision translate into a school setting? What do we imagine when we think about a school that fosters and embraces difference?
In an equitable and inclusive school, the development of skills and understanding necessary for the creation of an equitable and inclusive climate are given as much priority as learning to read. All students feel welcome and accepted in our school, where they see themselves reflected in their learning and in the environment. Students feel and are respected and fairly treated, according to their different needs and experiences. They are actively engaged in ongoing efforts to create the conditions necessary to make this vision a reality.
From the very young to teens, children need to know and understand that they have rights. Not only is this essential for their safety, it allows them to flourish as they learn to respect themselves and others. Throughout this web site, you will see references to the phrase “Safe, Strong and Free”. The phrase encapsulates an overarching vision of what it means to live free from all forms of abuse, assault and discrimination, in a world where equity and inclusion are a reality. (The slogan was created in 1978 by staff at a sexual assault centre in Columbus, Ohio. It forms the conceptual basis of all of COPA’s work and the Safe@School project.)
Reflecting on equity and inclusive education in schools
- In my school, who needs to be included and why?
- What measures and practices are currently in place to support their inclusion?
- What measures and practices are needed and how would they benefit my school?