“Girls Group” Forms in FSS Upper School

Several faculty members in the Upper School established an optional affinity group for girls and gender non-conforming students that met for the first time on Wednesday, March 10th.

The group, known informally as “the girls group,” was laid out in an email from Associate Upper School Director Erin Pratt last week as “a safe space for students who identify as women, students who are gender non-conforming, and students who experience the world in a way that they feel would benefit from this group.”

The group of adults leading this initiative, which includes Erin, Miriam Rock, Deneen Young, Heather Fortune, Sarah Kelly, Sowmya Srinivasan, and Zoë Blatt, is intended to be “intentionally intersectional” and “a space to celebrate women and the power of women and sisterhood.”

“When I came here eight years ago, I had come from an all-girls school,” Erin notes. “I definitely appreciated the comfort and safe space there can be when it’s just girls getting together and talking.”

The group has begun meeting amidst growing discourse around sexism and sexual harassment at Friends Select. Upper School faculty had already been discussing a plan to create different types of affinity groups for students, and with the recent uptick in concerns presented by girls in the school community, these teachers “felt a sense of urgency now,” says Erin.

Lily Brin ‘23, who attended the initial meeting, thinks that the girls group has the potential to be successful, especially if more girls decide to join. That said, she emphasizes her belief that the implementation of mandatory programming for male students around gender-based issues is even more urgent.

Upper School faculty are currently in conversations about beginning grade-centric discussion groups for boys at the school. “A bigger goal, beyond just groups, is to have some long-term curricula around positive identity, toxic masculinity, etc.” says Erin. 

According to Dean of Students Norman Bayard, who is spearheading this project, a meeting will be held today for faculty to discuss the structure of this programming. Students should expect to see these groups begin in the near future — “long before the end of this school year,” says Norman.

In the meantime, the girls group will continue to meet in Erin’s Zoom room on Wednesdays from 2:15-3:00 — an intentional scheduling choice that allows students to physically be in their own safe spaces during the virtual asynchronous learning day. The next meeting will be held this afternoon; after spring break, meetings will take place every other week. Drop-ins are encouraged.