Letter from RALIANCE: What Do Students Need This Back-to-School Season?

Young student in a classroom wearing a mask

Hello readers – students across the country are returning to school, in some cases for in-person instruction for the first time since March 2020. Much of society’s focus will understandably be on COVID-19 safety, but returning to school is also a time to think about the other ways we need to keep students safe and to build an environment that’s inclusive of everyone. 

Schools – from kindergarten all the way to graduate programs – are technically locations for learning and academic pursuit, but they are also social settings. Just like any other social setting, they are rife with challenges such as discrimination, sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse.

These challenges may feel more acute this year as students and teachers deal with the highly stressful challenge of returning to classrooms amid the pandemic or otherwise strive to make virtual education work. (The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently reported on the pandemic’s major mental health impacts that will stay with students as they return to school.)

To help meet the challenges of this moment, here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re a leader at a college or school:

• When possible, have I set aside time to listen to student concerns regarding school safety and culture? Are there any issues that they’ve repeatedly raised that I’ve failed to address?

• Which students are at the highest risk of abuse or discrimination at school or college? Has the impact of the pandemic increased any of these vulnerabilities? How can I begin to learn about and address the needs of the most vulnerable students?

• If I could institute one new process or training to ensure teachers and administrators create an environment where students feel safer and more included, what would it be? Are there other incremental steps I can take toward progress?

We’ll strive to answer some of these questions this month, when RALIANCE’s blogs will focus on returning to school as an opportunity to build cultures that ensure a safe learning environment for everyone. Be sure to check back for more!

RALIANCE provides consulting, assessment, and employee development services to help build more equitable workplace cultures and create environments free from sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse. We stand ready to support your organization’s goals – contact us today at [email protected] to get started.

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