The purpose of this policy is to ensure success for all by eliminating disparities and building partnerships.
The Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB) recognizes that in order to achieve our mission and vision in service of those who reside in Washington, we must embed the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our work. The State of Washington is diverse, and our agency must reflect that diversity. When we are representative of the people we serve, we can better address the disparities in outcomes of our services for marginalized and underrepresented communities through purposeful, tailored and equitable use of resources and programs.
To achieve a truly diverse workforce, we must be willing to address undeniable realities such as the existence and pervasiveness of discrimination, oppression, racism, white privilege, white supremacy, white dominant culture and individual biases. We must recognize oppression exists and has been reinforced through institutions, laws and policies to create structures and a system that discriminate against marginalized communities, especially people of color. This system has influenced societal norms, practices, beliefs and thoughts to create a dominant culture that further reinforces and perpetuates discrimination and oppression.
This dominant culture influences our individual perceptions, thoughts and actions. The product of this culture and our biology is the prevalence of biases, both conscious and unconscious, in how we perceive others, sometimes based on contrived, fabricated social constructs. These biases perpetuate discrimination and oppression of those outside of the dominant culture, especially people of color, leading to discriminatory hiring practices and other employment decisions, microaggressions and an unhealthy and exclusionary, rather than inclusionary, workforce culture. Such a work environment affects everyone because we are all connected, but it most negatively affects those who are members of marginalized communities.
To achieve inclusion, we must disrupt the othering of communities and ensure respect and belonging for all. We must be willing to look at our facilities and work environment through the lens of inclusivity and accessibility (e.g., gender-inclusive restrooms, heights of countertops, accessibility of presentations, norms of communication, etc.). We must be willing to challenge our practices and behaviors that perpetuate a patriarchal work environment and lead to gender discrimination and harassment.
WSSB recognizes that although we cannot change the oppressive and discriminatory practices of the past, we have control over the workplace culture we create today and in the future. Much work remains for us as an agency and as individuals to accept our responsibility and seize our opportunity to dismantle the internal policies, procedures, systems and practices that perpetuate inequity.
Based on these undeniable truths set forth above, it is therefore WSSB’s expectation that all employees, regardless of position, do the following:
- Recognize your role in perpetuating inequity through your own individual biases, whether conscious or unconscious. Be willing to walk the journey toward self-awareness and reflection.
- Co-create with your colleagues a welcoming, supportive, safe, affirming, and respectful work environment.
- Accept that mistakes will be made, acknowledged, learned from and improved upon as much of this journey requires learning through iterations of growth and failure.
- Engage and support respectful dialogue and courageous conversations even when uncomfortable about racism, privilege, white fragility, dominant culture, oppression and historical trauma.
- Participate in continuous learning, development and training offered in the areas of diversity, inclusion, cultural humility, oppression and equity.
- Identify and address microaggressions as they occur in our workplace, whether intentional or unintentional, and use these as opportunities to educate, learn, grow, listen and respond with respect.
- Offer support and encouragement by honoring each individual’s truth through the affirmation and validation of their values, beliefs, principles and lived experiences.
- Read and comply with this policy.
- If you are not sure whether you’re following this policy, ask your supervisor for advice or support so you can uphold the values described here.
In recognizing the positional privilege supervisors and leaders hold and its associated responsibility, the WSSB further directs all supervisors and leaders, with coordination and support from human resources and the superintendent’s office, to do the following:
- Promote diversity in all hiring activities including recruiting, interviewing and selection.
- Recruit and appoint culturally, racially and ethnically diverse managers and leaders.
- Ensure required qualifications listed for a job are truly necessary for a position. Where possible, other comparable experience should be considered in lieu of education requirements.
- Actively engage in initiating, promoting and championing inclusive strategies to retain workforce diversity in race, ethnicity, color, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, veteran status and disability status.
- Ensure equal access to growth and leadership development, educational and training opportunities, succession planning, mentoring opportunities and other resources. This includes ensuring competitive internal and external recruitments rather than direct appointments where possible.
Much is and should be expected of the members of the WSSB’s administrative team. Therefore, with support and coordination from human resources, admin team, including the superintendent, will do the following:
- Ensure diversity, equity and inclusion is a continuously present focus and a core value in our agency’s decisions, especially as they relate to the allocation of resources.
- Use the voices and perspectives of marginalized and oppressed communities to influence and inform our priorities now and in the future.
- Make the agency an anti-oppression institution with inclusive, full participation in decision-making and a purposeful commitment to restored relationships with marginalized and oppressed communities.
- Support progressive facilities and environment planning to transform the workplace into a welcoming, inclusive and accessible environment for all staff and customers.
- Actively listen to the experiences of staff, especially those from marginalized groups, and take action to change discriminatory or exclusionary practices.
- Continue to assess and correct workforce inequities throughout the agency including leadership appointments, promotional opportunities, training requests, access to flexible and alternate work modalities, and compensation.
Leadership, in conjunction with the equity committee, will review this policy at least every three years for changes and effectiveness.
The equity analysis tool for decision making may be used to support implementation of this policy.
This policy applies to all employees, contractors and volunteers. For represented employees, the collective bargaining agreement will supersede any specific provisions of WSSB policy with which it conflicts.
The directives indicated here are not optional, and failure to follow them may lead to discipline, up to and including termination. Leaders will be expected to explain how they worked to comply, achieve and exceed the goals identified in this policy.
Complaints and inquiries associated with this policy should be addressed with your immediate supervisor, Human Resources and/or Superintendent.
This policy was created using “Model Policies and Considerations for a Diverse, Equitable, Inclusive and Respectful Work Environment” which was Developed by: DEI Policy Committee; Scott Nicholson, Deputy Assistant Director; Office of Financial Management, State Human Resources Division In partnership with: Cheryl Sullivan-Colglazier, Department of Enterprise Services, Workforce Support and Development Division.