Diversity/Equity Definitions

This glossary is not meant to be an complete list, but a means to highlight some terms and phrases that are commonly used and mentioned in reference to diversity/equity issues.


Acculturation: The process whereby a person, or an ethnic, social, religious, language or national group, integrates with or adapts to the culture, values, and patterns of the majority group. This process may also involve the absorption of aspects of minority cultures into the majority culture patterns.

Achievement Gap: The achievement gap refers to the difference in performance between low-income and minority students compared to that of their peers. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and –completion rates.

Affirmative Action: A set of explicit actions or programs designed to increase the educational and employment opportunities of individuals or groups denied full participation and/or access in those areas.

Agnostic: Noun; 1) a person who holds the view that ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god; 2) a person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion about something political. Merriam-Webster

Anti-racist Education: A perspective that permeates all subject areas and school practices. Its aim is the eradication of racism in all its various forms. Anti-racist education emerges from an understanding that racism exists in society, therefore, the school as an institution of society, is influenced by racism. Anti-racist education attempts to equip us with the analytic tasks to critically examine the origins of racist ideas and practice, and to understand the implication of our own race and our actions in the promotion of, or struggle against, racism.

Assimilation: A process by which an individual or group completely adopts the culture, values and patterns of a different social, religious, linguistic or national group to the extent that the attitudes and behavior he or she shares with the original group are severed; in this way a culturally distinct group becomes absorbed by the majority community.

Atheist: Noun; a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods; one who subscribes to or advocates atheism. Merriam-Webster


Bias: (1) An opinion, preference, prejudice or inclination formed without reasonable justification which then influences an individual's or group's ability to evaluate a particular situation objectively or accurately. (2) Incidents of expressed behavior by an individual, institution or organization whose beliefs, actions or programs imply or state that certain races have distinctive negative or inferior characteristics determined by hereditary factors.


Cultural Competence: "Viewing one's personal and organizational work as an interactive arrangement in which the educator enters into diverse settings in a manner that is additive to cultures that are different from that of the educator." (Lindsay, Randall B., Kikanza Nuri Robins, Raymond D. Terrell, Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders, Third Edition, Corwin Press, Inc., 2009, page 64.)

Cultural Diversity: The variations among social groups that impact all areas of relationships.

Cultural Heritage: One’s ancestry, morals, values, beliefs and ethnic traditions.

Cultural Proficiency: "Making the commitment to lifelong learning for the purpose of being increasingly effective in serving the educational needs of cultural groups; holding the vision of what can be and committing to assessments that serve as benchmarks on the road to student success." (Lindsay, Randall B., Kikanza Nuri Robins, Raymond D. Terrell, Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders, Third Edition, Corwin Press, Inc., 2009, page 64.)

Culturally Responsive Teaching:  Culturally responsive teaching is “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for [students].” (Gay, G. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2nd ed.; Teachers College Press: New York, NY, USA, 2010.)


Disability: Disability is a physical, mental, or cognitive impairment or condition that qualifies under federal and state disability nondiscrimination laws for special accommodations to ensure programmatic and physical

Disadvantage: Unfavorable and unequal access to a country's resources(e.g. employment, education, better housing).

Discrimination: Deliberate or incidental actions rooted in bias or prejudices that create barriers to equal opportunities.

Diverse Groups: Perceived or actual differences among groups of people that contribute to group identity.

Diversity: Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender — the groups that most often come to mind when the term "diversity" is used — but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.

Dominant Group: A collective body that is usually the majority in numbers, therefore, becoming the group of power in a democratic society where majority rules.

Dr. Lyman T. Johnson: Dr. Johnson was human rights advocate whose landmark legal victory in 1949 resulted in the desegregation of the University of Kentucky. He became the first African American graduate student to attend UK and fought for equal pay among public school teachers as well as for integrated public accommodations and housing. A multicultural fellowship program was established in his honor. Dr. Johnson taught at Louisville Central High School for three decades and was an assistant principal for seven years.


Educational Equity: The practices, policies, academic support, curriculum, language, school resources, school culture and school climate that are structured to support academic success for all students, regardless of race, socio-economic status, gender, disabilities, language, national origin, religion or other characteristics. Ongoing educational and social supports ensure that all students’ needs are met, particularly historically marginalized student populations in public schools.

Employment Equity: Practices designed to eliminate discriminatory barriers and to provide equitable opportunities in employment. An employment equity program puts in place practices to ensure access without discrimination both to the available opportunities and to the possibility of their realization. This usually involves the setting of long-term and short-term goals to redress previous discrimination and inequalities for specified target groups. The legal definition is: “Employment Equity means more than treating persons in the
same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences." (Bill C62, Employment Equity Act) Thus the quality of the results is what is important, not the equality of treatment.

Equal Opportunity Programs: An explicit set of policies, guidelines and actions aimed at removing discrimination and ensuring that the general community has equal access to and full participation in education, employment, housing, health care, goods and other facilities.

Equity: Fairness and appropriateness of treatment based on student needs rather than group identity.

Ethnic Group: A community that is maintained by a shared culture, language or religion; a human group bound together by ties of cultural homogeneity with a prevailing loyalty and adherence to certain basic institutions such as a family pattern, religion and language. Everyone belongs to an ethnic group. The term is often confused with racial "minority."

Ethnicity: The cluster of characteristics, beliefs, attitudes and customs, which distinguishes one racial or cultural group from others.

Ethnocentrism: A tendency to view events especially from the perspective of one's own culture with a corresponding misunderstanding of other cultural groups.

Excellence: In JCPS, excellence is the expectation and standard that teaching and learning are of the highest quality, rigorous, nourishes critical and creative thinking, and is responsive to all of our constituencies. Excellence focuses on academic, social, and organizational development, as well as on the purposeful utilization of resources to enhance the district's mission.


Hate Literature: Ideologies and beliefs conveyed in written or electronic form that create, maintain or worsen hostile and unfriendly attitudes and actions against a specific group of people.

Hidden Curriculum: The hidden curriculum is the teaching of social and economic norms and expectations to students. These norms and expectations are so much a part of schooling that they are seldom questioned
or consciously examined. It may contain elements of unintentional racism due to certain acts of commission and omission. The intention to disadvantage may well be absent but the effect is the same.

Historically underrepresented: Historically underrepresented is a limited term that refers to groups who have been denied access and/or suffered past institutional discrimination in the United States and, according to the Census and other federal measuring tools, includes African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics or Chicanos/Latinos, and Native Americans. This is revealed by an imbalance in the representation of different groups in common pursuits such as education, jobs, housing, etc., resulting in marginalization for some groups and individuals and not for others, relative to the number of individuals who are members of the population involved. Other groups in the United States have been marginalized and are currently underrepresented. These groups may include but are not limited to other ethnicities, adult learners, veterans, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, different religious groups, and different economic backgrounds.


Gender: Gender is a socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. Words that refer to gender include: man, woman, transgender, masculine, and feminine.


Identity: A subjective sense of coherence, consistency and continuity of self, rooted in both one's personal and one's group history.

Inclusion: Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people. As defined by the 2008 Leadership Development Program Inclusiveness Project Team, [inclusion] is a respectful way of creating value from the differences of all members of our community, in order to leverage talent and foster both individual and organizational excellence.

Insensitivity: Lack of knowledge, awareness or cultural appreciation.

Instructional Strategies: Action plan(s) depicting specific methods used to achieve goals and objectives.

Integration: Policies or actions that tend to amalgamate diverse racial groups especially in matters of housing, politics and social-economic activities. In education in particular, such policies or activities would place disadvantaged students or children with disabilities from neighborhood schools into the same schools as privileged children. Thus integration is a process whereby ethnic and other minority groups become broadly dispersed residentially and in employment, and well represented in public life.

Intolerance: Rejection; non-acceptance of a particular person, idea or concept.


Learning Styles: The various ways information is comprehended, stored and processed.

Linguistic Diversity: The ability to speak, teach, translate, and incorporate awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of multiple languages.


Majority Group: Generally applies to a group of people in any given society that is either the largest in number or that successfully controls or shapes ideas and policies through their control of social, economic, political, and religious groups.

Microaggressions: Racial microaggressions are the everyday slights, insults, putdowns, invalidations, and offensive behaviors that people of color experience in daily interactions with generally well-intentioned White Americans who may be unaware that they have engaged in racially demeaning ways toward target groups (Sue et al., 2007)

Microassault: (type of microaggression) an explicit racial derogation; verbal/nonverbal; e.g. name-calling, avoidant behavior, purposeful discriminatory actions.

Microinsult: (type of microaggression) communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person's racial heritage or identity; subtle snubs; unknown to the perpetrator; hidden insulting message to the recipient.

Microinvalidation: (type of microaggression) communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person belonging to a particular group.

Minority Group: Generally refers to the group of people that is either small in number or that has little or no access to social, economic, political or religious power within a given society.

Multicultural: The term “multicultural” refers to the characteristics, values and status of all cultures within a particular country and their right to maintain their religious and cultural traditions.

Multiculturalism: Multiculturalism is an acknowledgment that, as people, we are culturally diverse and multifaceted, and a process through which the sharing and transforming of cultural experiences allow us to re-articulate and redefine new spaces, possibilities, and positions for ourselves, and others.

Multicultural Education: A broad term which refers to a system of educational activities and curricula that embraces the racial, ethnic, religious linguistic, national, international and political diversity with a view to
promoting understanding and respect of the culture, heritage, history, beliefs and values of the people within a multicultural setting. This implies the development of understanding and pride in one's own ethno-cultural identity as well as the development of understanding, respect and acceptance of the identity and heritage of others.

Multi-ethnic: Relating to the characteristics, value and status of all cultures within a particular country and their right to maintain their religious and cultural traditions.

Multiracial: Multiracial refers to a society that is made up of, involving, or acting on behalf of various races. On an individual level, it refers to a person whose ancestors are of several or various races.


Non-discriminatory: Environment without bias and prejudice that fully infuses equitable practices.


Paradigm Shift: A paradigm shift is a significant change in underlying beliefs or theory that comes about as a result of new discoveries, inventions, or realworld experiences.

Policies: Statutes, laws and regulations of rights, responsibilities and protocol of an organization or institution.

Prejudice: Prejudice is a frame of mind that tends to pre-judge a person or a group in a negative light. This negative judgment is usually made without adequate evidence. These negative attitudes are often not recognized as unsoundly based assumptions because of the frequency with which they are repeated. They become "common sense" notions, which are widely accepted, and are used to justify acts of discrimination.


Race: A socially constructed category used to classify humankind according to common ancestry of descent that relies upon differentiation by general physical characteristics such as color of skin, hair texture, stature, and facial features.

Race Relations: The quality and pattern of interactions between diverse racial groups within one society or nation. The term may also refer to explicit policies and programs devised to promote harmonious inter-racial and crosscultural communication on integration.

Racial Discrimination: Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field or public life.

Racism: (1) The use of political, economical and military power to perpetuate discriminatory beliefs, behaviors, practices and institutionalized bias. (2) A set of implicit or explicit beliefs, assumptions and actions based upon an ideology that one racial or ethnic group is superior to another and which is evident in organizations or institutions, as well as individuals and individual behaviors. Racism includes racist slurs (insults or degrading remarks). (3) A form of racial discrimination that stems from conscious, personal prejudice. Systemic racism: a general employment condition, specific practice, workplace that negatively affects employment opportunity or advancement for specific groups of people. Systemic racism manifests itself in two ways: (a) Institutional racism- racial discrimination that derives from individuals carrying out the dictates of others who are prejudiced or of a prejudiced society; and (b) Structural racism- inequalities rooted in the system-wide operation of a society which exclude substantial numbers of members of particular ethnic categories from significant participation in its major social institutions.

Racist Behavior: Aggressive, abusive or dangerous acts directed towards racial or ethnic minorities. Racial (racist) incidents express racist assumptions and beliefs through banter, racist jokes, and name-calling, teasing, discourteous treatment, graffiti, stereotyping, threats, vicious insults, physical violence and genocide.

Racist Slurs: Insulting and disparaging statements directed towards a particular racial or ethnic group.

Relevance: Administrative and instructional policies and practices support and promote curriculum and instruction that are educationally and culturally relevant to students and society.

Relationship: The district and school function as an effective learning community and support a climate conducive to performance excellence.

Rigor: Curriculum content is aligned to national standards and instructional practices that elicit higher levels of thinking through cognitive complexity and depth of knowledge.


School Climate: Describes people’s shared perceptions of the organization or work unit (how people feel about their organization). These perceptions are specifically related to schools. The focus is on the impressions, feelings, and expectations held by members of the organization’s structure and setting, as well as by the social interactions among those who work and learn there.

School culture: A product of the history of the relationships in a school. Important elements of culture are the norms, values, beliefs, traditions, rituals, ceremonies, and myths translated by a particular group of people. Thus, the values expressed in lesson plans and classroom teaching, the way the principal runs staff meetings, and the decorations displayed in the hallways are all integral parts of school culture. In addition to verbal and written symbols, school culture includes everything from nonverbal communication (Does a teacher nod and smile when passing a student in the hallway?) to the walls of the school cafeteria (Are they painted in institutional green or decorated with a mural?).

Segregation: Separation based upon race, gender, age, and exceptionalities-differences.

Separatism: Ideology expressing a preference for separate development of cultural groups in economic, social and political terms.

Sexism: An implicit or explicit set of beliefs, assumptions, and actions based on an ideology that one gender or sex is superior to the other, and which is evident in institutions or organizations and their programs, as well as in individuals and individual behavior.

Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation is the deep-seated direction of one's sexual attraction toward the same gender, opposite gender, or other genders. It is on a continuum and not a set of absolute categories. Sometimes it is referred to as "affection orientation."

Social Justice: A concept based on the belief that each individual and group within a given society is entitled to equal opportunity, fairness, civil liberties, and participation in the social, educational, economic, institutional and moral freedoms and responsibilities valued by the community.

Stereotype: The conscious or unconscious attribution of generalized characteristics of a whole group to all its individual members. Stereotyping exaggerates the uniformity within a group and its distinction from other groups.


Underserved: Underserved populations are ones that are disadvantaged in relation to other groups because of structural/societal obstacles and disparities. In JCPS, "underserved" applies to accessibility to a quality education.


2012 Merriam-Webster Incorporated

Culturally Proficient Organizational Culture: Resource Guide, Kentucky Department of Education

Equity and Culture Self Assessment, Kentucky Department of Education

Lindsay, Randall B., Kikanza Nuri Robins, Raymond D. Terrell, Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders, Third Edition, Corwin Press, Inc., 2009, page 64.