I am writing to you with my mind on the state of the world, but more specifically, on our school community. As we strive to find the best path toward reopening school in the midst of a health crisis, we also bear witness to the rise of social justice movements around the world, including in our own city. The voices within these movements compel us to think deeply about what it means to feel seen, heard, and valued. As we grapple with the pains of our world, we at GA must acknowledge the pain within our own community. As such, there are two matters that I must address with you in this letter.
In recent weeks, Black students, alumni, parents, and employees across the nation have shared, via social media, personal stories caused by racism experienced at PreK-12 schools and higher education institutions. These pages have inspired the creation of others, including one that focuses on sexual harassment and sexual assault experienced at schools. GA has not been exempt, and community members have shared their own stories of racism and sexual assault.
I have read these accounts closely, and I am grateful for the authors’ willingness to step forward. I am also devastated by the trauma they have described. The circumstances that have led to their public accounting of these past wrongdoings have drawn attention to our failure as a school to fully address those issues in the moments that they occurred, and for that I am truly sorry. To that end, I and the GA administration, faculty, staff, and trustees are committed to redressing these wrongs toward the true healing of our community. Reconciliation is a journey and not an endpoint. Acknowledgments and apologies are only the beginning; the action behind the words matters most. Here are some of our immediate action steps:
- Prior to the close of the school year, all school divisions designed and delivered curriculum units to educate our students in developmentally appropriate ways about the violence and unrest in our country. In addition, students, faculty, staff, and administrators participated in affinity group discussions to process the events precipitating the current social justice movement and the global response.
- Anika Walker-Johnson, GA’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, and I have planned a series of ongoing focus group (affinity and cross-racial) discussions that will begin in July via Zoom. These discussions will have a direct impact on the next incarnation of our Equity and Inclusion Action Plan for 2020-21. To learn more about these discussions: www.germantownacademy.net/about/diversity-commitment
- We will be adding additional resources to our website for further education on anti-racism and healing from trauma associated with racism.
- Resources have also been made available through our website and social media pages that directly connect GA community members to both our internal counseling team and external professional counseling services in the Philadelphia area and nationally. Here is the link: www.germantownacademy.net/academics/counseling-services/resources
- If you, as a current student, or a current student that you know at GA, has been the victim of sexual harassment and/or assault, I urge you to confide directly with a school official or use the Safe to Say anonymous reporting system, so that we can provide immediate support.
As we continue to listen and learn from our community members, it has never felt more vital for GA to work harder to live up to our Mission and commitment to equity and inclusion. This work requires the engagement of our entire community, from students to parents, from faculty to staff, from alumni to trustees. Please join me by investing your time, intellect, energy, and passion to ensure that GA becomes a truly inclusive, safe school community.
Head of School