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Racism, Understanding, and Belonging

The Task Force on Racism, Understanding, Belonging — a 15-member group of nine trustees and six faculty members — was created in the summer of 2020. It is leading wide-ranging efforts to help Episcopal combat racism and do more to ensure that all students feel a strong sense of belonging at the EHS.

Announcing the task force’s creation, Board Chair Lee Ainslie ’82 and Head of School Charley Stillwell said: “Our school has much work to do, much to learn, and many ways we can grow as an institution and as individuals, as we strive to combat racism effectively and to create an antiracist campus culture.”

Trustee Jonathan Beane ’88, the NFL’s chief officer for diversity and inclusion, is leading the task force. “We want to create an environment in which everyone is welcomed and allowed to be themselves,” he says. “But at the same time, we want an environment where disagreement is accepted, where different points of view are welcomed. So our job is to create that balance.”

The group’s work began with listening forums for trustees and school leaders to hear from Black and African American students, alumni, and parents as well as families of color about their experiences at EHS. The School also hosted forums for all white alumni, students, and families interested in working with the School as racial-justice allies.

Such events will continue and bring together the entire community. Other summer and early fall work of the School and task force includes:

  • Rewrote the student handbook and a Major School Rule to explicitly declare that racism will not be tolerated at Episcopal and to establish a discipline process for violations.
  • Began yearlong training with students and faculty to build the awareness, skills, and courage to recognize and stand against racism and prejudice.
  • Created best practices for antiracist teaching and classroom norms for discussions of race, language, and textual depictions of racism.
  • Implemented an all-School reading of Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy” for students and adults, with ongoing engagement through advisory work and programming through the McCain-Ravenel Center for Intellectual and Moral Courage.
  • Began programming and curriculum for students of disparate viewpoints to respectfully engage in even the most challenging sociopolitical issues of the day.

Ongoing Work

List of 6 items.

  • Help alumni to create a new 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.
  • Train faculty and staff about bias and racism.

    Internally and with experts, the School is designing a program of training and work to educate adults about how their individual biases influence their lives, their work, and their relationships on campus.
  • Empower student leaders as change agents in our culture.

    The 2020-21 Senior Monitors are actively helping establish Episcopal as it aims to establish an antiracist culture. The School is conducting training with our broader group of student leaders so they can be supported as change agents.
  • Examine curriculum and pedagogy to incorporate an antiracist approach.

    The School has begun an extensive review of curriculum across all disciplines — from math and science to social studies and the humanities — to evaluate potential biases and to include a broader diversity of voices.
  • Examine the School’s 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.
  • Identify potential biases and prejudice in school life and operations.

    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 any biases or inequities and determine how to achieve equity. 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.

Mission of the Task Force

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

Jonathan S. Beane ’88, Task Force Chair
Gretchen C. Byrd ’95
Robert Collie III ’94
Craig Dixon ’93 
Steven C. Lilly ’88
Alexander Y. Liu ’76
N. Thompson Long ’77
Lauren Marshall ’09
Leah Kannensohn Tennille ’01

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