Commons addresses parent concerns

Noa Yadidi

President Rick Commons and Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts have invited parents of African-American students to a dinner June 4 at the home of Maria and Jeff Harleston (Miles ’15, Zachary ’17) to discuss the experience of black students in the classroom and social community.

Members of the Parents of African-American Harvard-Westlake Students group, which regularly meets, received an email from PAAHWS co-chairs Tiffany Aldridge (Chase ’15) and Anne Brown (Evan ’12, Morgan ’15, Brandon ’18) notifying them of the event, which will be an “open, honest dialogue,” according to the email.

The invitation was sparked by some concerns shared about the experiences of black students at one of PAAHWS’s meetings, Commons said.

“We heard about a couple of incidents that caused us to think that perhaps it would be a good idea if we just listened,” Huybrechts said. “Nothing extreme that doesn’t come up from time to time, but there [were] a couple.”

Huybrechts does not believe there is anything approaching a big problem regarding the black students’ experience at the school, but said that while she hopes much of the feedback will be positive, she and Commons want to hear it all.

Commons added that the problems fall under the general category of “occasional racial insensitivity,” and that it is not atypical of institutions working on diversity to discover that there are areas where they are less inclusive or sensitive then they could be.

“It’s not a crisis, but an opportunity to learn from each other and be more inclusive,” Commons said.

Huybrechts also added that it is a good opportunity for Commons to meet and interact with more members of the Harvard-Westlake community.

“He is a very good listener and this is another opportunity for him to listen to the opinions and the reflections of a group of Harvard-Westlake students,” Huybrechts said.