Headmaster Robinson offered words of support at Upper School chapel on January 7.
Dear St. Albans Family,
In the two and a half years since I became headmaster of St. Albans, I have had to write a number of difficult messages on a range of challenging topics. But no leader, even in such trying and confusing times, ever expects to witness the disturbing events that have unfolded this afternoon at the United States Capitol building or to be faced with the responsibility of finding words commensurate with the emotions these events have stirred in all of us.
Our school and its mission are intimately connected to the city of Washington we call our home. The images of the United States Capitol and the Washington Monument visible from the top of Mount St. Alban are part of the spiritual and civic geography of our community. Together with the Washington National Cathedral, our school is blessed by our proximity to these monuments to the highest and noblest ideals of our moral and constitutional order, the physical embodiments of our school motto: Pro Ecclesia et Pro Patria.
The events that occurred today at the United States Capitol therefore come with a very deep sadness for those who love our school, the city in which we are located, and the many ways in which our mission draws strength and resonance from the sacred civic spaces that surround us. The desecration of these spaces is antithetical to everything St. Albans stands for and seeks to cultivate in our students.
My thoughts turn, first and foremost, to the safety of everyone in our community. With the school currently in distance learning, very few people are physically on campus. But we ensured Wednesday afternoon that the few individuals at school today made it home safely to their families before the DC Mayor’s mandatory 6:00 pm curfew took effect. And I encourage any faculty or staff who were planning to be on campus tomorrow to work from home.
As teachers, we seek always to partner with families to find developmentally appropriate ways to speak with our students about events of civic and moral significance. Today’s events will strain all of our capacities as teachers and families, awakening a range of complex emotions among our boys. It falls to us to support them, to protect them, and to help them begin the tangled process of finding meaning in events that defy comprehension and confound our normal categories of understanding.
We recognize our students have a range of needs at this complex moment. Some need the stability afforded by a normal school routine of attending classes. Others need to feel connected to the school community but are seeking forums where they can process their reactions to the events of today with the support of thoughtful, caring adults. Still others may feel that they need a day to spend with their families or communities of support beyond St. Albans. The plan for tomorrow aspires to accommodate the full range of student needs in the following way:
- Classes in both the Upper School and Lower School will run as scheduled for Thursday, January 7 (but with a great deal of flexibility on homework assignments)
- Students who seek forums for processing their emotions and reactions to today’s events will be offered several options. The approach will vary between the Upper and Lower School to reflect the age and developmental needs of our students but will likely include a homeroom-focused approach in Forms C, B, and A; Zoom opportunities with our chaplains and counselors for older students; optional Zoom sessions with Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Kristin Elliott; and an optional Zoom with Ms. Woods, Dr. Labaree, and me for Upper School students who would like to engage in discussion about the civic, historical, and constitutional dimensions of what is transpiring in our nation. More details will be shared with students very soon.
- We will have Upper School chapel tomorrow, and I will speak with the boys at the beginning of chapel.
- Families who feel their sons would be best served by not participating in classes tomorrow may have an excused absence.
Our chaplains and school counselors are standing ready to assist with pastoral and emotional guidance to anyone in our community who would benefit from connecting with them.
We will continue to work closely with Andy Solberg, the director of security operations for the PECF, who has extensive contacts with local and federal law enforcement, to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect the safety of people and our physical spaces. He will continue to advise us as Inauguration Day and any related events approach. If you have questions or concerns, please know I am here to address them and to provide the community with as much information as I can.
We will have more to communicate in the coming days. For now, I share my thoughts and prayers for all of you, our city, and our nation, along with my enduring love for this school and my unwavering faith in our mission, which has never been more important than it is today. The past ten months have tested our adaptive capacities as a community and have brought us, at times, to our adaptive limits. But I continue to believe in the soul of this school and in all of you. And as I said to the Upper School in a chapel homily this past November, I continue to believe in the moral resources that are always available to us, even in our darkest hours, when we are touched, as I know we can be, by the better angels of our nature.