An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Lakeside School has been engaged in diversity work for over a half-century, and our mission articulates our commitment to sustain a school in which “individuals representing diverse cultures and experiences instruct one another in the meaning and value of community.” We recognize diversity alone does not lead to inclusion, and we take active steps to create an environment in which the identities and cultural backgrounds of our families, students, and employees are valued and respected.

We believe that diversity is essential to achieving educational and academic excellence, and that students’ learning experiences are enriched by the diversity of the curriculum, student body, and adult community. Lakeside is committed to creating an inclusive and equitable community in which all individuals can participate in and contribute to the life of the school, regardless of race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, or any other aspect of their identity. We actively work to gain a deeper understanding of difference and how we honor it in our daily lives at school.

To learn more about our work in any of the areas below, contact Jamie Asaka, director of equity and inclusion/director of student and family support (, 206-440-2901) or Debbie Bensadon, assistant director of equity and inclusion (, 206-440-2908).

On Pride

by Chris Hartley, director of athletics

Seeing ourselves and our values

Q&A with Zinda Foster, Upper School service learning coordinator/Upper School student center and activities director

Curriculum and Instruction

Lakeside School works to create equitable classrooms in which students have equal access and opportunities to learn and achieve to their fullest potential. We promote cross-cultural understanding and engagement by teaching our students to learn about and from others who differ from themselves.

Lakeside’s teachers participate in ongoing education and training in the areas of diversity and equity in curriculum and teaching practices. We strive to foster inclusive and equitable classrooms in the following ways:

  • Provide students with a diverse teaching faculty.
  • Develop relevant curricula that incorporates diverse perspectives, materials, and texts and that supports the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our students.
  • Address biases, stereotypes, inaccuracies, and absent perspectives in curricular content.
  • Train faculty on facilitating intergroup dialogue. 
  • Utilize a wide range of instructional and assessment strategies to enhance student learning and understanding.
  • Provide learning opportunities for students to develop an understanding of themselves and others who are culturally different.
  • Foster critical thinking and reflective analysis from various perspectives.
  • Give equal access and opportunities to all students to fully participate and contribute regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religion, sexual orientation, or any other identity.

Student Programs

Students learn about, engage with, and lead work in diversity, equity, and inclusion at Lakeside School. This takes place in the following ways.

  • Affinity and alliance groups: Research shows that students who feel they are able to fully be themselves and have a strong sense of self perform better academically. For over 20 years, Lakeside has supported students’ positive identity development by offering student affinity and alliance group programs. The programs follow best practices and serve to support students in learning about themselves and about others. 
  • Peer facilitation: Upper School students can apply for a program in which they are trained in how to facilitate meaningful and difficult conversations in an environment that fosters active listening, mutual understanding, and personal connection. They learn to identify and address potential obstacles to communication, such as students’ fears of offending others, appearing ignorant, or feeling vulnerable. They then use those skills to facilitate the Middle School affinity groups. 
  • Student dialogues: Lakeside values cross-cultural communication and engagement. Students regularly participate in developmentally appropriate, structured dialogues with their peers regarding aspects of diversity and inclusion.
  • Conferences and retreats: Lakeside Middle School and Upper School students regularly participate in regional and national conferences, including the annual National Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Conference, and the Northwest Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Retreat. The Upper School’s Student Awareness Council hosts an annual retreat during which students engage in activities and discussions about race, class, and gender in order to raise awareness on our campus and promote strong and healthy community relationships

Physical and Cultural Environment

Lakeside believes that a learning environment that is safe and welcoming to all is of primary importance. We regularly review our policies and procedures to ensure we are meeting student and employee needs. Lakeside does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, use of a trained guide dog or service animal by a person with a disability, or genetic information.

Meaningful relationships between students and their teachers is part of what makes Lakeside a world-class educational institution. A core goal of our ongoing work is to have a faculty that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of Lakeside’s student population. A diverse adult community brings a variety of perspectives to the table and provides students with role models who represent a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. 

As part of our diversity and inclusion work, we established more inclusive hiring processes that allow us to draw from diverse pools of highly qualified candidates. We regularly train department chairs and administrators on bias-free hiring and interviewing. Representatives from Lakeside will be attending hiring fairs in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In 2020, Lakeside will host an Independent School Diversity Career Fair, at which attendees will hear from diversity practitioners about working in independent schools and meet with schools to learn about current career opportunities. Learn more about and register for the Feb. 1, 2020 Independent School Diversity Career Fair.


Lakeside has a six-person team focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can reach members of the team at

Director of Equity and Inclusion Jamie Asaka leads this work at an institutional level, particularly regarding school-wide policies and practices. She guides the implementation of the Our Work Together initiative and collaborates with administrators and trustees to implement efforts to make Lakeside a place where each person feels a part of the community.

Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion Debbie Bensadon leads the work around student programming and supports inclusive hiring. She represents Lakeside’s DEI office in the larger educational community.

Nancy Canino and Stephanie Wright serve as faculty equity coordinators. They work with faculty on both campuses, providing feedback on academic curricula (what faculty are teaching) as well inclusive teaching practices. Additionally, they help faculty identify professional development opportunities and readings specific to teachers’ interests and areas for growth.

Ben McKinley and Merissa Reed are the student equity program coordinators. McKinley advises the Upper School student affinity group leadership team (SALT), helps develop and coordinate the Upper School student dialogues, and coordinates and chaperones national and regional student diversity conferences. At the Middle School, Reed is the lead for the affinity group program, develops dialogue plans, and helps Middle School faculty execute them. Reed is also the point person for regional student retreats for middle schoolers and related off-campus opportunities.

The DEI team works with other established groups including Lakeside’s all-school diversity committee (composed of faculty, staff, and administrators) and student-led affinity and alliance groups. They work closely with parents and guardians through the Parents and Guardians Association (PGA). The PGA Vice President for Community, Equity, and Inclusion sits on the PGA executive committee and oversees the T.J. Vassar diversity and community committee and the parent/guardian affinity group program. Find more information about these committees on the PGA webpage

Definitions & Terms

Cultural competency: The application of a defined set of values, principles, skills, attitudes, policies, and behaviors that enable individuals and groups to work effectively across cultures. Cultural competence is a developmental process (and continuum) that evolves over time for both individuals and organizations. It is defined as having the capacity to (1) value diversity (2) conduct assessment of self (3) manage the dynamics of difference (4) acquire and apply cultural knowledge and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of the communities in which one lives and works.

Diversity: The concept of diversity embraces the wide range of human characteristics used to mark or identify individual and group identities. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, ethnicity, race, national origin, age, personality, sexual orientation, gender, class, religion, ability, and linguistic preferences. Diversity is a term used as shorthand for visible and quantifiable statuses, but diversity of thought and ways of knowing, being, and doing are also understood as natural, valued, and desired states, the presence of which benefit organizations, workplaces, and society.

Equity: A condition that balances two dimensions: fairness and inclusion. As a function of fairness, equity implies ensuring that people have what they need to participate in school life and reach their full potential. Equitable treatment involves eliminating barriers that prevent the full participation of all individuals. As a function of inclusion, equity ensures that essential educational programs, services, activities, and technologies are accessible to all. Equity is not equality; it is the expression of justice, ethics, multipartiality, and the absence of discrimination.

Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group identity, values, culture, language, history, ancestry and geography.

Implicit bias: The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.

Gender: Socially constructed categories of masculinity and manhood, femininity and womanhood.

Gender expression: The outward manifestation of internal gender identity, through clothing, hairstyle, mannerisms, and other characteristics.

Gender identity: A person’s internal sense of themselves as a specific gender.

Inclusivity/Inclusiveness: Encompassing all; taking every individual’s experience and identity into account and creating conditions where all feel accepted, safe, empowered, supported, and affirmed. An inclusive school or organization expands its sense of community to include all, cultivating belonging and giving all an equal voice. Inclusivity also promotes and enacts the sharing of power and recognition of interdependence, where authorizing individuals and community members share responsibility for expressing core values and maintaining respect for differences in the spirit of care and cooperation.

Microaggressions: Microaggressions are subtle words, cues, and/or behaviors that insult, invalidate, or exclude traditionally marginalized group members. The long-term effect of microaggressions can be a significant negative effect on one’s health.

Multiculturalism: The presence of many distinctive cultures and the manifestation of cultural components and derivatives (e.g. language, values, religion, race, communication styles, etc.) in a given setting. Multiculturalism promotes the understanding of, and respect for cultural differences, and celebrates them as a source of community strength. Multiculturalism is also defined as a set of programs, policies, and practices that enable and maximize the benefits of diversity in a school community or organization.

Privilege: Systemic favoring, enriching, valuing, validating, and including of certain social identities over others. Individuals cannot “opt out” of systems of privilege; rather these systems are inherent to the society in which we live.

Race: A social construct that divides people into groups based on factors such as physical appearance, ancestry, culture, history, etc.; a social, historical and political classification system.

Racism: A system of oppression involving systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups by those who have relatively more social power. This subordination occurs at the individual, cultural and institutional levels.

Sexual orientation: A concept referring to sexual desire and preference for emotional and sexual relationships with others based on their sex/gender; often implies that sexual object choice is an essential, in-born characteristic, so may be problematic to some.

Social class (as in upper class, middle class, lower class, working class): Refers to people’s socio-economic status, based on factors such as wealth, occupation, education, income, etc.

White privilege: Institutional set of benefits, including greater access to resources and power, bestowed upon people classified as white.

Sources for these definitions include the National Association of Independent Schools, The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, Lambda Legal, and The Privilege Institute.