PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. This mission is accomplished through membership, programs, partnerships, communication, and service to the school community. Learn more about PTA’s mission and activities.
The students, families and school employees that are part of the Alachua County public school community have diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. PTA strives to make everyone feel welcome and included within the membership and during programs and activities. ACCPTA’s goal is to enhance representation and inclusion within PTAs across the county.
As a part of this effort, ACCPTA has created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. The goals of the committee are to:
Listen to and understand the needs of all children and families;
Welcome and engage all families;
Encourage local PTA units to ensure they are representative of their school population;
Work with local PTA units to help them identify and remove barriers that have historically kept people from being a part of local PTAs;
Advocate for the needs of all families, particularly those families that are underrepresented;
Advocate for policies that will support racial equity and reduce inequities and opportunity gaps in the current system;
Provide resources and support to help local units accomplish these goals.
We acknowledge that every PTA unit and school community is unique, and there are many factors that influence and impact these goals. We also recognize that all children and schools benefit when those differences are recognized and celebrated. We hope this toolkit will provide PTA units with resources to help facilitate these goals as they move toward building inclusive PTA communities within their schools. The toolkit is designed to assist PTAs no matter where they are in their diversity journey.
What is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion?
The terms DE&I have become buzzwords in many organizations and communities, but there are many ways to define them. A common definition helps ensure we are starting off at the same place and able to measure efforts in a consistent way.
Diversity National PTA defines diversity as: Diversity is representation of, and respect for, people from different backgrounds and identities—including but not limited to race, culture, religion, socio-economic status, age, geographic area, sexual orientation and gender identification, language, learning style and physical appearance. It also involves bringing different ideas, perspectives, lived experiences, talents, values and worldviews to the table to represent the broad variety of children, caregivers, educators and communities within the PTA family. Click here for additional definitions of diversity
Equity National PTA defines equity as: Equity provides fairness in resources, opportunities and outcomes so that all communities get what they need to be engaged and successful. This moves beyond an “equal across the board” approach to: 1. Recognize and address bias and privilege. 2. Understand and attend to specific individual and community needs, providing additional resources to those with greater needs.
Inclusion National PTA defines inclusion as: Inclusion is actions, behaviors and social norms that ensure all people feel they are safe, welcomed and that they belong. This means putting diversity into action with skill and intentionality to ensure everyone feels respected, supported and valued—and can fully participate with equal voice and right to be heard. This includes actively seeking out voices that have been traditionally underrepresented and/or marginalized.
According to Inclusive Sports Design, the following 7 Pillars of Inclusion can be a tool for school organizations to ensure inclusivity:
Access- the importance of a welcoming environment and the habits that create it.
Attitude-how willing people are to embrace inclusion and diversity and to take meaningful action.
Choice-finding out what options people want and how they want to get involved.
Partnerships-how individual and organizational relationships are formed and how effective they are.
Communication-the way we let people know about the options to get involved and about the culture.
Policy-how an organization commits to and takes responsibility for inclusion.
Opportunities-what options are available to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Why is DEI important to PTA? Diversity is our strength. According to National PTA… PTA represents parents, caregivers, educators and communities of all children, which enables us to best achieve PTA’s mission to make every child’s potential a reality. Our collective backgrounds, perspectives and ideas allow us to best reflect the rich fabric of 21st century children, families, educators and community members—and create the strongest future and direction for PTA.
Diversity directly benefits your PTA in the following ways:
More diversity means more members, and more people to participate in and benefit from your events and programs.
Diverse perspectives add richness and meaning to PTA conversations and planning.
Having a variety of experiences, skills and insights makes problem solving easier and more effective.
Diversity increases innovation and creativity as people draw on their unique experiences to spark new ideas.
According to research, diverse teams make better decisions. Scientists believe this is because diverse teams process facts more thoughtfully.
A diverse PTA can have a positive impact on the school, as more family involvement leads to stronger academic achievement for all students.
How diverse and inclusive are PTAs? It’s difficult to track specific demographic information from PTA members because that information isn’t collected or reported consistently. We do have some research about state PTA boards. According to research conducted by National PTA in 2015, 26% of PTA state boards were minorities. 85% were females, and the most common age ranges were 31 – 59. We also have anecdotal information across the nation indicating that many groups of people don’t feel that PTA is representative of their entire school community.
Why aren’t PTAs as diverse as they could be? Research from National PTA conducted in 2019 identified a strong desire for diversity and inclusion in PTAs across the country. Multicultural audiences are eager to engage with their child’s education and want to find ways to help them succeed. This presents an opportunity for PTAs to reach audiences they might not have engaged much in the past.
A few barriers to engaging multicultural audiences were identified in the research:
There seems to be a general lack of understanding about what PTA does and how families and students might benefit from involvement.
There is a need for more inclusive messaging that conveys PTA is accepting of all families.
There is a need to rebrand and culture shifts within some PTAs. Not all families see themselves or their perspectives represented, which might make PTA feel elitist and unwelcoming to families who are typically underrepresented.
There is a need for a broad range of PTA meeting times to ensure accessibility for all families.
Overall perceptions about the school and its desire to involve families can also have a negative impact on PTA, since many families associate PTA with the school.
Additional feedback provided at the local level includes:
PTA communications are sometimes not written in a way that can be easily understood by different literacies or ESOL families.
Technology barriers might impact families who are not as technically savvy and/or do not have regular access to emails or other electronic communications
Many families are addressing a culture that moves quickly as it relates to technology, and they often feel that their needs are not always adequately considered by the schools.
Some parents may not have grown up around PTA and may not realize the value of being involved and the connection to their child’s education.
Many families have work obligations and other commitments that prevent them from being involved in traditional ways, and they are not always made aware of additional ways to get involved.
Families’ input and diverse contributions are not always equally valued.
Many myths and misconceptions exist about PTA that can be difficult to overcome.
Getting Started: A Step by Step Guide
No matter where you are in your journey for a more diverse and inclusive PTA, the important thing is that you’ve started! By reading through this guide, you have taken an important step. As with anything at this level of importance, the process is a marathon, not a sprint. You will likely encounter setbacks along the way, but that’s normal and expected. The important thing is to keep moving forward in a positive direction.
This step-by-step list may serve as a basic resource to help you get started. But no PTA’s journey will be the same. Feel free to use parts or all of this, depending on what is most helpful to you.
Step 1: Discuss DEI among your PTA leadership and school administration The first step in getting started is to discuss DEI at the leadership level, with the ultimate goal of gaining buy-in to make DEI a priority. You can start with your school leadership (Principal, Assistant Principal, other administrators who are involved in PTA), Executive Committee (your elected PTA officers), or your full board – whatever makes the most sense based on how your PTA is structured. Talk about the importance of DEI, and ask them how they feel about it. Show them the information in this guide about why DEI is important to PTA and the benefits.
Topics to discuss/questions to ask during the initial exploration stage:
How do we feel about DEI in our PTA?
Is it something we want to focus on or address?
How big of a priority do we want it to be? What resources are we able and willing to allocate toward addressing it?
How do we want to move forward with addressing it? What group or individual is best to own this initiative? It is a pair of leaders, a committee, or the full board? If it’s a committee, who should be on the committee?
Visit the Resources Section of this Guide for tips for how to have productive conversations about DEI.
Click here for an example of how one local PTA got started on their journey, formed a DEI Committee and communicated with their school community.
Step 2: Assess your PTA’s diversity Once you’ve started the conversation and gained buy-in at the leadership level (or at least an initial commitment), the next step is to assess where you are. This includes taking a close look at your board, membership, activities, programs and communications through a DEI lens.
Break down your data. Start looking at your PTA’s numbers. Does your PTA reflect the demographics of your school? The only way to get a clear picture of inequities and outcome gaps and successes is to review your membership activities, programs and policies, and collect, examine and report relevant data. You can survey your board and/or PTA membership at this point, to learn more about demographic information and thoughts about PTA. See Sample PTA DEI Survey.
Visit this comprehensive list of sample self-assessment questions to determine areas of opportunity. Note: the list is lengthy, and PTAs just starting out may want to pick one or two sections that you feel are most realistic. You could also assign each area to different committees or members of the leadership team. Remember: this journey is a marathon, not a sprint!
Step 3: Put together a plan Once you’ve assessed areas you want to focus on, the next step is to put together a plan. Your responses to the self-assessment questions may be a starting point for this, or you might have a good idea of what’s needed without doing the self-assessment. The plan should include a list of activities you want to do, which person or group within the PTA will be responsible, and when it should take place. Ideally the plan would include a short and long-term focus with goals for how to measure success, but starting with the short-term might be the most feasible for your PTA.
Things to consider when drafting your plan
How large is your board and volunteer base? The number of volunteers you have will help determine what goals are reasonable and attainable for you.
How many committees do you have, and what other activities do they have planned in the coming year? You may want to put some activities aside for a short period while you focus on DEI. Or maybe you can integrate your DEI initiatives into all of your committees.
What level of commitment do you have from school leadership? Are they willing to provide resources to assist with your goals?
Visit the Resources Section for tips and samples for Diversity Programming.