How to Actualize Abolitionist Communication
When crises are brewing, news headlines are increasing in volume, staff are clamoring to know how to proceed, students are digesting information faster than we are—mostly because of social media, and family are spreading real and created information as the rumor mill intensifies, I have no doubt that these eight principles will feel distant. In volatile, time-sensitive, fastmoving, and uncertain situations, like a global pandemic or a climatic disaster, as a school leader you must remember that all ears will be listening to what you communicate, how quickly you communicate, and how often you communicate. Even if you're still trying to understand the extent of the crisis and the implications it will have in your community, the depth of your honesty and vulnerability will determine your humanity. The coordination of how you communicate honest and vulnerability will determine your credibility. Here are the initial three abolitionist steps for how to actualize the communication principles with humanity and credibility.
Establish a Communications Team
Communicating as a group, unlike acting as a group, requires a more centralized communications approach. Not hierarchal, but centralized. These differences are more than semantics, but speak to the abolitionist spirit of how the school, network, district, or organization will communicate. When volatility and time-sensitivity are the background noise of communication, keep this in mind: the fewer the voices, the clearer the message. This communications team is not only formed to norm on what is being communicated but also to be the gatekeepers of principles. In a school-based context, these teams should ideally be no more than a handful, literally five people, and should at least consist of the principal (to be the primary voice and signature for all internal and external communiqué), an operations leader
(to ensure that all the moving parts of communication make sense), and a social-emotional leader, e.g. a lead social worker or therapist (to ensure that radically human care is as critical as operations). Taking a triangulated approach to communication prevents any single leader from disregarding any of our communication principles, and promotes abolitionist accountability You might be asking: what does this communications team do? In brief—it meets consistently (in crisis, daily!), creates and cross-references all information shared internally and externally, provides a weekly update or memo to all stakeholders (yes, all stakeholders!), and keeps the community focused on the agreed-upon and shared principles for acting.