An Open Letter to Our Community Regarding Recent Events
Friday, June 5, 2020
Dear Thornton Academy Students, Families, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and Friends:
I write today to address the deeply sad events that have brought racial inequity to the front of many of our minds. As a nation, we have followed the coverage of the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. These names are just a few on a much longer list of overwhelmingly tragic and deeply disturbing events that are a result of continued systemic racism in our country.
Thornton Academy condemns all forms of violence, inequity, and racism. The school’s mission to “prepare students for a changing world” calls us to invite students into an understanding of the past in order to be part of creating a better future. With students from more than 30 local towns and more than 40 countries worldwide, we value the diversity and multiculturalism of our community and work hard to foster a greater appreciation of not only our individual differences, but also the values we share. However, we know we must do more.
When I reflect on our core pillars of respect, responsibility, compassion, and investment, I am reminded that these values guide our work, uphold our community, and inform our actions and attitudes. I am also reminded that each of the pillars asks us to be willing to acknowledge when we have work to do—and right now, we have work to do. During our Pillar Assemblies each month, we gather to reflect on the ways our core values are woven through all that we stand for and all that we do. Were we back on campus, I would speak with students directly about the connection between our pillars and the work of dismantling systemic racism. And I would be the first to admit that we need to do more and be better.
We must be committed to creating a school community where everyone may feel safe to be exactly as they are. By cultivating a culture of respect, we interact with integrity and humility, and make space for feelings to be expressed, and questions to be asked. Respect allows us to learn and grow together through challenging circumstances.
We must embrace individual ownership of behaviors and choices, and grow our awareness of the potential outcomes of our actions. Practicing responsibility requires us to reflect on the past and acknowledge the undeniable realities of racism—historic, systemic, and current—that millions of people, including members of our community, face each day.
We must try to understand the opinions and experiences of others with compassion. When we encounter new perspectives with thoughtfulness and kindness it increases our capacity for empathy. We are better able to acknowledge the experiences of all people, empathize with their suffering, and find the courage to stand up for those among us who are subjected to injustice and violence.
Finally, we must be invested in one another—engaged with our school community, committed to goals, and willing to take risks. Being invested challenges us to admit that we have more to learn in order to protect the health and safety of all students. It encourages us to dig deep to address thoughts and behaviors that are rooted in bias and systems of oppression.
Even at a distance, we are connected by these pillars, and can be guided by them as we support one another through these most recent tragic events. I want to make it especially clear to our Black students and families, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends—your lives matter to us. I promise you that we will endeavor to be even more aligned with our mission and pillars than we ever have before. We will do our best to create a community in which you feel seen and supported.
Please know that although we are about to begin summer vacation, our efforts to learn and improve continue. We commit to making this urgent work a priority as we further develop our Awareness Curriculum, and are in the process of forming a standing Diversity and Inclusion Committee that will support our goal of better understanding systemic racism and injustice. We will listen closely to student voices; leverage the expertise of our faculty and staff; and seek the guidance of outside experts as we assess the reality of where we are, and move forward from a place of honesty, integrity, and strength.
Rene M. Menard