Our Values

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As IRIS Center staff, parents, educators, and members of our communities, we believe strongly in inclusion and acceptance, social justice, and equity for all people. We use this space to make available a record of our center’s values and public statements.

Diversity statementAt the core of our values is a commitment to the equity, accessibility, and diversity that defines our community and mission.


The IRIS Center takes seriously our commitment to a diversity of opinion, perspective, and experience. Whether this be cultural and linguistic diversity, socioeconomic diversity, or the endless diversity of individual strengths and personhood, we strive—and will always strive—to embrace and celebrate the things that make us unique as well as those that we share in common. We do so as writers, educators, researchers, parents, and people who hope to do our small part to build a more just and equitable world for all our children. Indeed, it was our prior work on issues of racial equity that inspired two of us to consider moving out of our comfortable special education niche and into work that would reach a much larger audience in order to improve teachers’ awareness of cultural and linguistic differences, increase the use of evidence-based practices, and prevent inappropriate referrals of students of color to special education. That desire eventually led to the work of IRIS.

We invite your commentary and feedback. If you notice anything in an IRIS resource of which you believe we should be made aware, do not hesitate to contact us at iris@vanderbilt.edu. Thank you as always for supporting the IRIS Center and our mission.

Capitol statementIn the wake of the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, the IRIS Center issued this statement focusing on resources to help parents and teachers guide conversations with their children and students.


As we continue to come to grips with the events of January 6, 2021, many of our most acute concerns have turned to children and students. Even for grown people, the images broadcast live from Capitol Hill were shocking and frightening. For young children, many of whom lack the tools to contextualize upsetting events and emotions, these effects can be greatly magnified. Some children may believe that their family members or even they themselves are in danger. More, they might or might not share these fears with their parents or teachers.

Speaking to children in an honest, age-appropriate, and calming manner can help to assuage at least some of these anxieties. In this spirit, we offer the resources below in the hope that they might help to facilitate and guide these difficult but necessary conversations.

Throughout this difficult moment, the IRIS Center continues to believe that the attainment of a better, more honest, more just, and more equitable society is within our reach. We strive to attain this goal—sometimes in fits and starts, sometimes even taking steps backward—through efforts grounded in mutual respect and acceptance, a commitment to truth and facts, and an enduring belief in our responsibility to create a better world for our children.

ADL Education, “Discussing Political Violence and Extremism with Young People” https://www.sutori.com/story/discussing-political-violence-and-extremism-with-young-people–3tm3oXLqgApFvjqTx32nG5vE

ASCD, “Resources for talking to students about politics, civic engagement, and uncertainty” https://inservice.ascd.org/resources-for-talking-to-students-about-politics-civic-engagement-and-uncertainty/

Common Sense Media, “Talking to Kids About the Violence at the U.S. Capitol” https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/talking-to-kids-about-the-violence-at-the-us-capitol

Education Week, “How To Teach the U.S. Capitol Attack: Dozens of Resources To Get You Started” https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/how-to-teach-the-u-s-capitol-attack-dozens-of-resources-to-get-you-started/2021/01

Facing History and Ourselves, “Responding to the Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol” https://www.facinghistory.org/educator-resources/current-events/responding-insurrection-us-capitol#.X_882Rb9Rz0.link

National Association of School Psychologists, “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers” https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/school-violence-resources/talking-to-children-about-violence-tips-for-parents-and-teachers

National Geographic, “How to talk to your kids about the chaos at the Capitol” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/2021/01/talking-to-your-kids-about-chaos/

Teaching Tolerance, “Leading Conversations After Crisis” https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/leading-conversations-after-crisis

black lives matter statementFollowing the killing of George Floyd, the IRIS Center issued this statement in support of racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.


There are times when it is difficult to know what to say, when words feel like they are not, and cannot, be enough. This is one of those times, and we are struggling with it, just as we suspect many of you are struggling with it.

Some of you out there right now might be teaching virtual classes, or preparing to do so. You might want to talk to your students about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that are now taking place across the United States and, indeed, around much of the world. Maybe your students have raised questions. These can be difficult conversations. They can be painful. But they are necessary, and they should be conducted with honesty and courage and openness. In this spirit, we want to share what we think might be some resources to help you get started.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture offers tools and resources to help guide productive and meaningful conversations about race.

The National Education Association, too, has resources for teaching about Black Lives Matter, including lesson plans, activities, and teaching guides.

The IRIS Center supports, has always supported, and will never stop supporting the fundamental human right to the best possible education as an indispensable component in the development of an enlightened, tolerant, and engaged community. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. They are tomorrow’s mayors and governors. They are tomorrow’s police officers. They are tomorrow’s teachers.

It’s up to us–to all of us–to help them along a path toward a more compassionate and just society.