Students hear panel discussion about inclusion


“You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

Dr. Bob Veto reminded students of this common expression during an assembly last week at Stratford. He explained how certain ‘slogans’ can be said so often that they start to lose meaning.

“The only way to make these slogans not lose their meaning is to be reminded of their purpose,’’ he said.

During the ADL assembly, a panel representing Stratford students, faculty and parents discussed important issues involving inclusion and exclusion at Stratford.

The first topic brought up was the definition of an inclusive setting.

Stratford senior Trey Tharpe described inclusion as a “healthy family with differences, but there’s a respect for those differences.”

Upper school assistant principal Mrs. Theresa Ferrari said  in an inclusive background, everyone feels like they belong, and people treat others the way they want to be treated.

Stratford junior Monasa Vemuri read out loud anonymous responses on the same issue. Those students consider an inclusive society to be an integration of knowledge where everyone feels respect and is connected to the group.

The second issue brought up was exclusion. Senior Grade Deedrick said, “exclusion takes place in Stratford due to the economic standard of student.” This could include where students live, what kind of cars they drive and where their parents work.

“Exclusion is a part of life” said Stratford parent Chip Koplin, whose daughter, Sarah, is a junior.

Koplin, who graduated from Stratford, explained how cliques can sometimes be OK in small groups, but one should not make people who want to feel included be excluded.

The third issue up for discussion was the effect the phrase “just kidding” could have on an individual.

More than  61 percent of the student body said “just kidding” doesn’t make a phrase any less offensive.

Mrs. Ferrari first gave scenario of how the phrase can truly be a joke in close circle, versus a harmful jab at another student.

“Attacking others isn’t the only way to be funny,” said Deedrick.

Stratford parent, Mrs. Lody Odeh, whose son, Faisal, is a senior, labelled the use of “just kidding” in certain situations as “passive aggressive.” Mr. Koplin went on to elaborate that the context of “just kidding is the most important way to discern if it is offensive or just playful conversation.’’

The fourth subject for discussion was what is Stratford doing right and what can we do better? It was unanimous that Stratford can only do so much, but improvement is always possible. The Ambassadors program and the peer mentors were lauded for their successful attempts to integrate new students into the community.

English teacher Dr. Frank Katz praised Stratford’s policy for being non-sectarian. Mrs. Odeh recalled her time walking through the Stratford halls during the holidays and observing the displays observing a wide array of religions. She considered it one of the biggest reasons for enrolling her children at the school.

Upper school counselor Mrs. Jacqui Wilson wrapped up the assembly by inviting individuals to come sit in on Conversation Central during lunch. She was thankful for the dedicated group of students who already attended, but she wishes to welcome in students of different perspectives.

“It’s nice to have people show up,’’ said Wilson. “But the only way we can have a true discussion is if people with multiple viewpoints participate.”