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Racism, Understanding, and Belonging

Racism is perhaps nowhere more pernicious than in our country’s schools, which are dedicated wholly to educating the minds and spirit of children. Given the pain and outrage evident in the nation’s streets since the murder of George Floyd, and given what our own community has shared with us, we must make clear that racism will not be tolerated at EHS.

That commitment must be backed with real and lasting change — in what we teach, how we teach, how we foster community, and how we confront racist acts, big and small. As a School, we must teach the history of prejudice in the world as well as at our school so that we all — faculty, staff, and students — understand its origins, impact, and enduring influence.

This journey and work are not entirely new to us, but we must do much more and with more urgency and determination. If we fail, we fail at the mission that is at Episcopal’s core: to prepare tomorrow’s leaders with the intellectual and moral courage to fight for justice and embrace empathy and kindness.

It is clear that we have much work to do, much to learn. Below is an outline of our first steps. These actions are by no means the sum of what we expect to do; the shape and details will evolve as we move forward and be reflected on this page.

Action Items - Summer/Fall 2020

List of 7 items.

  • Establish the Task Force on Racism, Understanding, and Belonging.

    This group of trustees and faculty began meeting this summer to work closely with school leaders to fulfill its charge: “To ensure that the School fosters a community and culture at Episcopal High School that is free of racism, that embodies respectful and appreciative understanding of differences, and in which all its members share a deep sense of belonging.”

    Trustee Jonathan Beane ’88, who is currently the Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Roche Holding AG, will chair the group. This task force will report on the School’s progress several times during the upcoming school year. See below for more information about the task force.
  • Host additional listening forums to learn more from our community.

    Our listening forums are continuing, with conversations being planned for Black alumni, students, their parents, faculty, and staff as well as for non-Black members of our community. We will continue to listen and learn from the @BlackatEHS Instagram account, alumni, and current students who share with us important and relevant perspectives on their personal experiences as Black students at EHS.
  • Create a Black alumni network.

    Together with a robust number of Black alumni stepping forward to help, we are establishing an alumni network. Separately, several alumni are forming a mentoring group to provide support and guidance to current students.
  • Create a structure for all members of the community to comfortably report prejudice.

    Our conversations with Black and African American alumni make clear that students can be hesitant to address incidents of racism or bias on campus or uncertain about the steps to take. Episcopal is building a reporting and accountability mechanism that students and adults will be able to trust and that will be in place before the beginning of the new school year. 
  • Examine our curriculum for bias and racism and revamp it accordingly.

    Though this work will extend into the new year, the School has begun to conduct an extensive review of curriculum across all disciplines — from math and science to social studies and the humanities — to evaluate potential inherent biases and to include a broader diversity of voices.
  • Train faculty and staff about bias and racism.

    Internally and with experts, the School is designing a program of training and work that will begin this summer and will run throughout the year to educate adults about how their individual biases influence their lives, their work, and their relationships on campus.
  • Begin to empower student leaders as change agents in our culture.

    The 2020-21 Senior Monitors have met with the School’s leadership to discuss how they can help establish Episcopal’s antiracist culture. Before school begins and throughout the year, the School will conduct training with our broader group of student leaders so they can be supported as change agents.

Action Items - Beginning Fall 2020

List of 3 items.

  • Educate all our students about bias and equip them to combat racism.

    This critical work will begin with student orientation this fall. While even the most committed antiracist might be susceptible to a prejudicial thought, this does not preclude growth. Rather, it is our very awareness of this susceptibility that permits and drives our desire for growth. Ultimately, we want to help everyone better recognize prejudice and give them the skills to combat it and to build healthy relationships.
  • Identify biases inherent in School structures.

    With the help of independent outside experts and the support of the task force, the School will examine closely every aspect of school life to identify biases or inequities and change the systems that allow them to persist. Among the elements of the School that we will scrutinize are student life and leadership, admissions and financial aid, and faculty and staff diversity and professional development.
  • Address the School’s full history with regard to race.

    It is vital that every EHS community member understand from all perspectives the School’s history, including the role of slavery and the lasting impact of racial discrimination and prejudice. While our history includes moments of challenge for our students and faculty, the School should also highlight the many accomplishments of alumni of color and celebrate their individual and institutional triumphs. Such work will include unflinching looks at our past similar to 2018’s commemoration of 50 years at integration.

50 Years of Integration

    • This history of Episcopal's integration, filmed and produced by Luke David '93, debuted on November 9, 2018, as part of Episcopal's commemoration of the School's integration in 1968.

Task Force on Racism, Understanding, and Belonging

With Episcopal’s commitment to be more intentionally and effectively antiracist, the Board of Trustees has created a new Task Force on Racism, Understanding, and Belonging. The Task Force will work closely with an internal working group of Episcopal faculty and staff to fulfill its charge:

The Task Force on Racism, Understanding, and Belonging has been created to ensure that the School fosters a community and culture at Episcopal High School that aims to be free of racism, that embodies respectful and appreciative understanding of differences, and in which all its members share a deep sense of belonging.

To that end, the Task Force will operate with the following practical objectives:
  • to work closely with the School’s administration and an internal working group of faculty and staff that will focus on antiracist initiatives, providing guidance and oversight;
  • to review and support the work of the School as it identifies action items in all areas of student life and academics, as well as hiring practices and professional development for faculty and staff;
  • to create an evaluative framework to ensure the effectiveness of the School’s action items; and
  • to assist the Administration and the internal working group in prioritizing action items.

    In the end, our objective is to create a better environment and educational experience for all of Episcopal’s students.

Members of the Task Force

Lee S. Ainslie III '82, Chair, Board of Trustees
Jonathan S. Beane '88, Task Force Chair
Gretchen C. Byrd ’95
Steven C. Lilly '88
Alexander Y. Liu ’76
N. Thompson Long '77
Lauren Marshall ’09
M. Rodney Robinson '86
Leah Kannensohn Tennille '01

Charley Stillwell, Head of School
Marc Carter, Director of Technology
Christina Holt, Assistant Head for Institutional Advancement
Jonathan Lee '01, Associate Director of Admissions
Molly Pugh, English Department Chair and Office of Community and Equity Program Director
Louis Smith, Director of the Office of Community and Equity