Illinois Math and Science Academy hosts race-based student retreat, emails reveal.


Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that the Illinois Math and Science Academy, Illinois’ top STEM school, has been running a race based annual program that is limited Black and Latino students. The yearly one-day event titled “BHSC Retreat” states that it is “an event for Black and Latinx students to engage in meaningful conversations, fun activities, and meet alumni.”

In an email exchange between a student member of the “Yearbook Photo Team” and staff from the Diversity Equity and Inclusion office, the student states, “I am part of the yearbook team and we were planning on taking pictures of the retreat on Saturday. Would we need to register for the retreat? Also, do our photographers need to be Black or Latinx?”

A DEI staff member’s response to the student stated “Your staff may attend the keynote presentation and take photos between1:30 to 2:20 in the Lexington cafeteria. All of the other sessions are closed sessions. Please speak with a staff member before you begin taking photos.”

The DEI director responds to the staff member by asking for “Black/ Latinx photographers so that pictures can be taken throughout the day.”

The staff member replies back “Let’s talk about his more. I have some concerns.”

It is unclear what the concerns were as it was not addressed in any other emails provided.

On March 3, 2022, a letter was sent out to students regarding the retreat stating that “The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion along with Brotherhood and Sister circle will be hosting a retreat on Saturday, March 12.” The email continued: “Don’t miss this opportunity to meet and connect with other Black and Latinx students, staff and alumni in a forum that celebrates you!”

In a follow up email, the Director of Equity and Inclusion asks a fellow staff member “Did you request a list of emails for the Black and Latinx students? If not, please request that from OIR, and have [redacted] send a letter to parents as well.”

The event titled Brotherhood Sister Circle (BHSC) Retreat states that as part of the schools Equity and Excellence Policy, its goal is to “provide Black and Latinx students with additional academic resources and social/emotional support to ensure they have the tools to be successful at IMSA and the global world.”

The student programming titled Brotherhood Sister Circle (BHSC) Experience is a “proactive, intentional and ongoing approach to foster and nurture a safe, affirming and responsive environment and organizational culture where Culturally, Linguistically, and Economically Diverse (CLED) students feel they have value, the opportunity to contribute their best work and the ability to realize their full potential.” It “allows students an opportunity to share their lived experiences, learn about the history and current system of oppression in America, develop relational leadership skills/stereotype management to confront related issues, engage in mindfulness and positive self-identity activities to develop confidence, grit and resilience, as well as have access to educational resources such as tutors and mentors.