Dear St. Albans Community,
Headmaster Robinson last wrote to the community on June 1
to express the school’s profound grief and sorrow at the tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, along with the racist mistreatment of Christian Cooper. The weeks since have underscored the unrest and pain in our society, the accumulation of centuries of inequities and indignities, deferred dreams and disappointed hopes.
Moved by a deep sense of moral obligation — and the conviction that this is a defining moment for our nation, our city, and our school — many of you have reached out to us. You have said that St. Albans must do more, that expressions of sorrow are simply not enough. We must summon the resolve to listen, to lead, and to act from the deepest values of our mission. We feel the same sense of urgency and write to you today to embrace our responsibilities as an institution, to respond to the profound moral claim that this defining moment — and the movement it has inspired — makes upon St. Albans School.
It can be uncomfortable to confront these topics. But we must remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words that “true peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” We must begin by acknowledging the reality and persistence of racism and our collective responsibility to exile it from our nation, our city, and our school. The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are not isolated incidents. They arise from systems of institutionalized discrimination and degradation that diminish the value and dignity of black lives.
St. Albans cannot distance itself from these painful realities. Our black students, families, faculty, staff, and alumni are forced to navigate these systems — and the fear and anguish they create — every day of their lives. It affects their lived experience at St. Albans and in the world beyond our school in ways many of us cannot begin to understand. By what we have done — and what we have left undone — we have been complicit in perpetuating these injustices. That must change. Our mission, grounded in our identity as a church school located beside the National Cathedral and our nation’s capital, calls us to walk a higher and more arduous path. We must dismantle the systems that obstruct the realization of our shared ideals. Silence, detachment, and equivocation are not acceptable options.
Our solemn pledge is to commit to this work in the weeks, months, and years ahead with deep listening, resolute action, a critical examination of our school culture and policies, an honest reckoning with where we have fallen short, and an uncompromising commitment to making our school a model of justice, equity, and inclusion: a sacred space dedicated to the dignity and humanity of every person as a child of God.
While we will vigorously and thoughtfully promote diversity in all its manifestations, we recognize that the African American experience, both at St. Albans and in the world beyond our school, is part of a distinctive history that we cannot properly address until we recognize — and eradicate — the pernicious, intractable features of institutionalized racism that continue to afflict black lives.
Our path forward begins now. It builds on the work we have already begun over the past two years and includes a number of decisive new actions. We share what follows with an unwavering commitment to meaningful change and deep humility at how much more remains to be done:
We make the following commitments:
- Comprehensively and rigorously audit our curriculum, C Form through Form VI, to ensure that the histories and experiences of all of our students, especially our African American students, are thoughtfully represented in a way that fosters a culture of antiracism, equity, and inclusion throughout our curriculum.
- Draft a new policy for inclusion in the Student Handbook that specifically addresses racial hate speech and misconduct; the school’s unequivocal condemnation of such behavior; how we will educate our students about these fundamental community expectations; and the process we will use for investigating and eradicating such behavior from our community.
- The students admitted to St. Albans for the 2020-21 school year are the most diverse cohort in the history of the school with 57% students of color. The largest percentage are new African American students (23%). Nevertheless, we must do more to recruit — and retain — a diverse and inclusive student body.
- For a diverse student body to be an enduring and meaningful part of St. Albans, rather than a mere numerical abstraction, our boys of color and their families need to find a deep sense of belonging in our community. Critical to the retention and flourishing of our boys of color is the presence in their lives of adult mentors who share their life experience. We therefore commit to increasing the diversity of our faculty and senior leadership, with a particular emphasis on hiring more African American male teachers and leaders through more deliberate outreach, networking, and the exploration of fellowships that will attract African American educators and leaders to our community.
- Expand Affinity Groups, which were successfully introduced in the Upper School this past year, to include Lower School Affinity Groups, a Black Alumni Affinity Group, and a Black Parent Affinity Group.
- Expand our diversity, equity, and inclusion training to include the Governing Board, the Senior Administrative Team, and our Deans with disciplinary responsibility.
- Increase the resources and energy the Governing Board devotes to diversity, equity, and inclusion so that a commitment to meaningful, lasting change has the full support and engagement of those entrusted with the governance and strategic direction of the institution.
- Engage in a summer community reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (for all faculty as well as students in Forms I-VI) and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist (for all faculty and staff), with organized discussions in September with students and faculty when the new school year begins.
- Examine all elements of our tacit curriculum — the messages we send, the perspectives we privilege, and the experiences we marginalize by the traditions, stories, and images of the school — so that those elements reflect the most inclusive and textured version of our history, while also capturing the full sweep of our future aspirations.
- Embrace our civic responsibilities as an institution within the city of Washington, D.C., and American education more broadly by actively pursuing partnerships with nonprofit service organizations devoted to dismantling racism and inequities in our society, and making civic education, civic engagement, and service learning fundamental priorities in the school’s future strategic direction.
While only a beginning, during the past two years we have:
- Appointed the school’s first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Kristin Elliott, who now serves as a member of the school’s Senior Administrative Team.
- Implemented the school’s first Affinity Groups, which were introduced in the Upper School this past spring, providing a vital source of support to many of our students from marginalized groups, especially our African American students during the tragic events of the past month.
- Created a Community Life Leadership Team to integrate and advance initiatives in diversity, equity, and inclusion; community service; our advisory system; assemblies; and the Skip Grant Program.
- Held multiple training sessions for our faculty and staff on implicit bias, facilitated by a leading diversity practitioner in Washington, D.C., Shayna Hammond.
- Hosted a conference at St. Albans with the International Boys' School Coalition, Gilman School, and the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys on “Teaching, Reaching, and Succeeding with Boys of Color in Independent Schools.”
- Held parent discussions on “stereotype threat” through the lens of Claude Steele’s book, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do.
Realizing our commitments for future action requires the involvement of many voices and must truly be a “community” undertaking if it is to succeed. To this end, we are planning a series of townhall-style Zoom sessions with alumni and parents in the coming weeks to listen, learn, and work in partnership on a path forward. More information about the dates and times of these sessions will be forthcoming.
In one of Headmaster Robinson’s first addresses to the St. Albans community, he wrote that “leadership is about knowing what time it is . . . about knowing where a school community is in the arc of its history and that of the larger culture. It is about preparing for and paying attention to moments of opportunity that make it possible to ask new questions and to see in new ways.” We face an inflection point in our school and our society, arguably the most important in our lifetimes. It calls us to lead and to act with a sense of purpose that reflects the highest ideals of our mission and our commitment to causes larger than ourselves. The road ahead is a profoundly difficult one. But we know St. Albans is equal to the challenge. We ask you to join us as we walk this path, with honesty, humility, and an unceasing commitment to making St. Albans a school worthy of its mission and a more perfect embodiment of its ideals. We are committed to this profession because we believe in the essential goodness and potential of the extraordinary young men we are privileged to teach and in the transformational, redemptive capacity of education. And we believe that in spite of our flawed humanity and the many ways we have fallen short, we can bend the moral arc of our school and our world towards justice.
David S. Marriott '92
Incoming Governing Board Chair
Director of Operations, Office of the Headmaster
Assistant Head of School for Advancement & Strategy
Head of Lower School
Executive Director of Development & Alumni Relations
Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Lanier Frank ’79
Director of Alumni Relations
Director of Facilities
Head of Upper School
Nikki Magaziner Mills
Director of College Counseling
Director of Communications
Assistant Head of School for Finance & Operations
Dean of Faculty
Associate Dean of Faculty
Director of Admissions & Financial Aid
Associate Head of School