Improving the diversity and equity in the VIPKid community

Dear VIPKid,

We were very happy to read the following words in your e-mail to teachers on June 2nd:

¨As a company, we do not condone racism of any kind. We value diversity and equity, and we are committed to improving our own community. 

During times like this, it is important to look inward and recognize that we can do better. We pledge to find ways we can continue to improve our practices. We acknowledge that, both as a company and as a global society, we have a long way to go in addressing the issues of diversity and equity within our communities, but we are committed to doing this work. ¨

We were also happy to see that you continued to work in this area as evidenced by some general promises in your recent blog posts. Thank you so much for being ¨committed to doing this work¨. For us to continue to have faith in your words, however, we are calling for much more specific and urgent action.

1) For VIPKid to show that they truly ¨value diversity and equity¨, VIPKid must create clear policies for action after any teacher experiences or perpetrates racist actions or any other actions that discriminate based on ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. These policies should include clear steps the teacher follows in the classroom as well as defined consequences for the perpetrators of these actions. The policy should also include how to care for teachers and/or families after they have experienced these attacks. This idea was mentioned in one of your recent blog posts, but the clear steps have yet to be spelled out.

2) As part of acknowledging that VIPKid ¨can do better¨, its administration must reflect on the past lack of adequate action regarding racism perpetrated against teachers of color by students and their families. All tickets that have reported racism should be reviewed and those specific teachers should be contacted to see if the situation was resolved adequately. After these honest conversations and reflections take place, a public acknowledgement of how the situation was resolved and a public apology to the teachers who have been affected and to the entire VIPKid community must be issued if necessary. It is yet another form of racism to dismiss or minimize the legitimate complaints of people of color. Adequate actions (such as those listed in this letter) should have been taken after the first ticket reporting racist behavior was mentioned.

3) In order to have ¨equity¨, teachers of color cannot be subjected to racism in the classroom. Anti-racism education must be explicitly taught to students and families before they join VIPKid. The most recent blog post that highlights that ¨culturally relevant resources¨ will be provided to families. This is a great idea!  In addition, all families should have to agree to the conditions of violating the anti-racism agreement.  While the ¨Non-discrimination policy¨ is a good start, parents need a more specific agreement that clarifies actions that are considered discriminatory (laughing at the color of a teacher´s skin, for example). The agreement should also include steps that will be taken before the family loses all privileges to be on the VIPKid platform, as is stated in the policy. As recently occured, a family did the aforementioned racist activity and did not lose access to the VIPKid platform.

4) To truly ¨value diversity and equity¨, these values must be reflected in the curriculum. VIPKid has taken steps in doing so by including people of different colors and races in the slides. We applaud your efforts to continue this work by re-evaluating the curriculum ¨to ensure that it is inclusive and diverse¨. The next step is to create a unit devoted to Diversity in the U.S. and Canada which includes anti-racism. This unit would explicitly name and celebrate the beauties of many cultures, religions and races in America and, at the same time, explicitly teach about the dangers of racism and other forms of discrimination. These two aspects are the foundations for anti-racist education. AN inclusive curriculum AND explicit teaching are fundamental. 

5) We request transparency about the curriculum team, executive board (both in the U.S. and China), and teachers in leadership roles around how they identify in terms of race, country of origin and gender.

6) In order to ¨do this work¨, the teachers must do it. There must be training for all teachers on how best to deal with racism, sexism, and discrimination based on sexual orientation if it still does appear in the classroom, as well as ways to root out racism (anti-Black, anti-Chinese or anti-anybody) in ourselves. This training will be mandatory for all teachers, old and new. The group that creates this curriculum MUST include people from the curriculum team, learning partners and current VIPKid teachers. It is unclear if the ¨Diversity Toolkit¨ which is mentioned in one of your blogs would be mandatory and would explicitly teach anti-racism.

7) We ask that VIPKid develop and release a detailed plan of structural and programmatic changes that actualize your present aspirational statements of commitment and support and respond to the aforementioned requests.  We also request regular and specific updates on progress towards achieving these concrete objectives.

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