School denounces racism and bigotry

Dear Editor:

The death of George Floyd was senseless and profoundly disturbing. Since this tragedy, thousands of Americans have peacefully demonstrated in cities and towns across the country to voice their anguish and to make clear racism is a deep wound in our nation that we must collectively work to heal. We at Episcopal School of Jacksonville (ESJ) have been pained to learn from some of our Black students and alumni that they have not always felt equally welcome in our community. It was hard to read their social media posts and realize our core belief – respect the dignity of every human being – is not consistently felt. For that we are truly sorry, and our efforts will continue with an even greater intensity to make all feel equally welcome.

I have shared with our ESJ community that any form of racism, bigotry, or exclusion – all of which we strongly denounce – will not be tolerated. We are committed as an institution to do all we can to create a culture that is respectful of all. In recent years, our Awareness, Inclusion, and Respect Initiative (AIR) has established a number of programs, including professional development for administrators and faculty; student forums around ways to continue to improve awareness, inclusion, and respect for all within our community; faculty roundtable listening events with students of color; intentional hiring efforts to diversify the faculty and staff; and more. AIR is working on a series of forums that will begin when school resumes this fall and continue throughout the academic year and in the years to come. We will be considering curricular efforts to ensure all members of our community are heard and their experiences shared and will always review other opportunities and structural changes that reinforce our beliefs.

In early June I wrote to our ESJ community, telling them we must be more than words. We must act individually and as a school to end racism and bigotry. As educators we must support, build up, and ensure we truly are, as St. Paul says, one body with many members. We are committed to never tolerating anyone being made to feel “less than” or “other.” Our goal is unity through our differences, which makes us a stronger community.

The Rev. Adam Greene
Head of School, Episcopal School of Jacksonville

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