Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Frequently Asked Questions
What do you mean by Diversity and Inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion are about more than gender and race/ethnicity. While those remain key, we now define diversity to include the many differences that distinguish people, including mental, emotional, psychological and physical disabilities; learning styles; geographic residence; languages used; cultural heritage; educational level and more.
However, recognizing the value of differences is just one part of a PTA initiative. Inclusion is equally critical. This means reaching out to people, engaging them in ways that address their needs and perspectives, and encouraging all families to become actively involved in PTA activities and membership.
What "counts" as a PTA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative?
Given the broad definition of diversity in PTA, there are many forms of outreach and engagement that serve the commitment to diversity and inclusion. Here are just a few:
- Providing PTA materials or events in multiple languages
- Sponsoring members to attend Emerging Minority Leader or Diversity and Inclusion Conferences at the national or state levels (Note that alumni from these events can serve as role models and leaders in your PTA.)
- Participating in the Every Child in Focus campaign
- Having members who complete PTA training sessions such as male engagement training, special needs training, cultural competence training (including e-learning), Spanish language training (including e-learning), or military family training
- Conducting PTA outreach, networking and events focused on the specific needs and opportunities related to the circumstances of families with children in foster care; or inner-city urban, rural or suburban families; or immigrant, refugee or homeless families
- Conducting PTA outreach, networking and events designed to engage multicultural communities, including African American families, Hispanic/Latino families, Asian American families, American Indian/Alaska Native families, Pacific Islander American families, families involved in foster care, and families with LGTBQ members
- Increasing male presence and perspectives in PTA at all levels and in all activities
- Addressing issues specific to families with children who have special needs, military families, and families with gifted children
- Hosting or participating in diversity summits, town halls or community gatherings devoted to children’s educational success and well-being
- Developing advocacy initiatives addressing specific issues affecting PTA families
Why is it important to have specific leadership roles to address diversity and inclusion initiatives?
It is important to have formal roles such as a Diversity Chair to provide leadership, support and encouragement for local, council and district diversity and inclusion initiatives. Having a point of contact to provide guidance and assistance allows for cohesion and consistency of diversity initiatives. Some state and regional groups have decided to assign leadership roles for more specific diversity initiatives, such as a Male Engagement Chair or Special Needs Chair. These leaders can help PTA groups keep up with legislation, requirements and opportunities affecting specific communities, as well as maintain outreach and assistance efforts.
What is the role of a Diversity Chair at the state level?
At the state level, a Diversity Chair assists the PTA in meeting its strategic plan objective to diversify all aspects of membership and leadership throughout the state through multicultural outreach, initiatives, activities and events. Regardless of whether this role is called the “Diversity Chair” or is performed under another title, the position is key to diversity, inclusion and outreach efforts. The person in this role should have a strong interest in ensuring that diversity and inclusion strategies throughout the state are in compliance with the national policy and reflective of their communities.
The Diversity Chair should be a leader in spearheading and supporting diversity efforts throughout the state and serve as a liaison to the National Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Committee. In addition, this person should work closely with the state president on recruitment, minority leader identification and membership growth (specifically to address representation gaps), as well as engagement and outreach to teachers, administrators and youth.
A Diversity Chair can be instrumental in guiding diversity and inclusion efforts and maintaining multicultural growth. However, given PTA’s broad definition of diversity, forming a committee for Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach is more effective than vesting all responsibility in just one person. Such a committee can include members addressing the particular communities that populate your PTA area. For example, a committee might include specific members who focus on male engagement; military families; multicultural issues affecting African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Hispanic/Latino families, American Indian/Alaska Natives, and other ethnic groups; LGBTQ children and families; children with special needs and their families; immigrant, refugee, and homeless families; and so on.
How does the PTA National Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Committee support the local and state organizations?
The National Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Committee’s goal is to serve as a resource and partner to state diversity and inclusion programs by providing guidance and resources to assist them with their initiatives. In addition to this guide, the National PTA Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Committee has created an online Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit to provide resources that are available 24/7, throughout the year. The National PTA Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Committee also can provide training recommendations, recommend speakers and activities and offer leadership support to state and local diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Why is it important to make accommodations for members if English is not their first language?
Poor communication is often a key factor when a PTA struggles with growth and engagement. If an organization is trying to grow and engage membership, but cannot effectively reach the designated audience, that organization will have some challenges attracting new members. Offering PTA and school materials in a family’s native language is one way to include more families and keep them informed. Similarly, providing an interpreter at meetings and events can foster positive outreach to attract new members. One very effective way to address the needs of communities that speak languages other than English is to get parents who speak those languages involved in organizing and leadership roles within the PTA.
Why are PTA alliances with state educational boards, school district offices, community groups and business organizations important?
Creating alliances and networks of support beyond the school itself can enhance the opportunities and resources available to a PTA. Here are just a few possibilities:
- Translation. Members of outside groups may include people willing to translate PTA materials or interpret at PTA events, or such groups may have relevant materials available in languages other than English.
- Outreach. Alliances can facilitate PTA outreach; for example, PTA might partner with local churches doing youth-focused programs or programs involving parents who speak languages other than English.
- Leadership identification. Parents involved in local groups and organizations may be interested in PTA leadership opportunities.
- Sponsorship. Outside groups and organizations are often willing to sponsor or co-sponsor PTA events, scholarships and supplies.
- Volunteering. Volunteer opportunities offer PTA members and students a chance to work together, participate in larger networks and accomplish specific goals.
- Workshops/training. Tap the expertise available in external groups and organizations for workshops and training sessions that benefit parents and PTA leaders.
- Meeting venues. Alliances with external groups and organizations can open possibilities for alternative venues suitable for large or special PTA events.
- Co-host activities. Invite leaders of other organizations to co-host PTA activities; this can be a way to involve community role models or foster alliances with external groups.
- Representation. PTA leaders can represent PTA issues, concerns and membership by serving on school district boards, state boards of education or on the boards of community-based organizations.