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“In order for an under-represented group to advance, it must be recognized, included and valued.  The NFHS attempts to model this belief in practice.  Introducing the Minority Inclusion Project will aid state associations in providing the opportunity to identify and advance minorities that result in positive contributions for all.” (Bob Gardner, NFHS Executive Director) 

This section will provide some background information about minority inclusion and its importance. If you are already clear about why to increase minority involvement in your organization and its programs, and are already committed to do so, you could skip ahead to the next section. However, if you want a little more background information you can read on.

Race and ethnicity will be the primary topics of this section and this Minority Inclusion Toolkit in general. However, there are other cultural minorities, such as those who are disabled or armed services veterans, to whom many of the principles will apply. Please keep other such minority groups in mind as you use this toolkit.

The NFHS believes that “participation in education-based interscholastic athletics and performing arts fosters involvement of a diverse population.” This is one of the NFHS’s six “We believe” statements in its 2011- 2016 Strategic Plan that highlights the opportunity and value provided by participating in education-based interscholastic athletics and performing arts activities. Working in and with diverse groups is an important value of the NFHS and state associations. If diversity is important for those participating in interscholastic athletics and performing arts, it is important that those governing these activities also showcase that diversity in their staffs and among others who represent these organizations to their schools.

The student population of public schools is becoming increasingly diverse in race and ethnicity.  According to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the 2010-11 school year, more than 45 percent of public school students are part of minority racial and ethnic groups. They are students of color. In fact, for some states and the District of Columbia, the majority of public school students in the state represent a single, so-called “minority” population, and many states do not have a racial or ethnic group that represents the majority of public school students. For more information about public school student race and ethnicity, click here or (View Table/Figure) to a table on the NCES website (www.nces.org)

In the early 1970s, less than 25 percent of public school students were part of minority racial and ethnic groups. Thus, the percentage of public school students who are members of racial or ethnic minority groups has doubled in the past 40 years. The expectations are that this trend will continue and that by the middle of this century racial and ethnic “minority” students, or students of color, will be the majority of U.S public school students.

It is obviously the expectation of the NFHS and the network of interscholastic governing organizations that those students who participate in high school athletics and performing arts would mirror this public school student diversity. Yet, national data doesn’t appear to be available to substantiate this. However, there may be data available within states or provinces to make such comparisons. There is also the question of how much of this diversity student activity participants may experience with their team or group or even in interscholastic competitions. For a variety of reasons there is still much segregation in living areas between racial and ethnic groups, which can often lead to individual schools with a predominant racial or ethnic make-up and less diversity than the picture painted by the national data of students in public schools.

One further complication is that economics is one of the factors for racial and ethnic separation in living areas. Overall, most racial and ethnic minority students live in situations where there is less disposable or discretionary income. This can affect these students’ opportunities to participate in a school activity. They may not be able to afford the costs associated with interscholastic athletics and performing arts participation.  This may not only include activity fees, but also prior costs to develop the skills necessary to make the team or participate in a group. They may also need to work to help support the family or take care of siblings and other children so other family members can work. Transportation difficulties can also limit these students’ participation.

When we look at staff members who teach or coach the young people in the public schools, about 75 percent of teachers are Caucasian, the majority are female and most are middle class. For school athletics and other activities, there are more male coaches and other adult leaders. Information isn’t available at the national level about the race or ethnicity of these coaches and adult leaders.  Again, data may be available within states or provinces about the race or ethnicity of coaches and adult leaders of performing arts activities. 

This provides a bit of backdrop about racial and ethnic diversity in public schools among students and staff. It also provides a reference point for the NFHS and state associations as they move forward with their minority inclusion or cultural diversity efforts, as well as rationale for doing so.  You may want to gather data specific to the area you serve to help give you a clearer picture of the diversity among those you serve.

Many organizations such as the NFHS and its member state associations have already taken steps to make their staffs and workforces more culturally diverse. They continue to look for additional ways to do so. Organizations often see the value of cultural diversity in bringing different approaches or solutions to the workplace. Major commercial corporations also often see that diversity helps the company connect with larger, more diverse and sometimes newer audiences, which can result in increased sales of the company’s products and services. For education-based interscholastic athletic and performing arts governing organizations, diversity in their workforce helps their organizations to be more representative of the schools they serve, including the school’s staff, students and their parents.  Among interscholastic governing organizations, there is a strong belief in the value of these efforts as evidenced by the comments below from state and provincial association staff on the NFHS Citizenship and Equity Committee. When asked why state associations and the NFHS should increase the involvement of people who are considered minorities or under-represented groups in their work, they responded:

 “So as to be more representative of the populations they represent” (John Paton, Alberta Executive Director) 

 “Because it is the right thing to do.” (Reg Romine, Kansas Assistant Executive Director) 

“Increased minority involvement allows persons from minority groups to witness representation of diversity from the population served; to see different cultural backgrounds from staff; and bring appreciation and respect for, and understanding, of organization’s work.  (Theresia Wynns, former Indiana Assistant Commissioner, current NFHS Director of Sports and Officials Education.) 

“The NFHS, as THE governing body for high school athletics and activities, should do its best – fairly and professionally – to represent the great diversity that is the USA.” (Karissa Niehoff, Connecticut Executive Director) 

For these and other reasons, this toolkit is being developed by the NFHS “to provide a model, and a leadership role, to assist in expanding the opportunities for minorities in organizations that govern high school sports and activities.” (B. Elliot Hopkins, NFHS Director of Sports, Sanctioning and Educational Services).
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