Over the past week, people have been assembling in peace to express grief and voice concern over police brutality and racism in the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky; and Ahmaud Arbery in Southeastern Georgia.
Like many monthly meetings, Friends School communities were deeply affected by these issues. As a result, school administrations and trustees at schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware published powerful messages on their websites that were centered in the Quaker belief that there is that of God in everyone and Friends’ testimony of Equality. These have been basic tenets of the faith since the time of Margaret Fell and George Fox.
We’ve posted below excerpted statements and useful resources shared by numerous Quaker Schools in the region. We do this with the knowledge that about 50% of people who end up connecting with the Quaker faith encountered Quakerism through a Friends school and the understanding that public and private school teachers everywhere positively impact youth in deep and powerful ways that society values and needs to honor.
Abington Friends School:
An excerpt from the letter from Head of School Rich Nourie — Reflection & Action in Response to Violence Against People of Color:
“These tragedies underline the urgency in our calling to actively work to dismantle racism and the systems that poison any collective hope we may have for justice, equity and peace for all. Times like these call for a healthy sense of outrage, but call even more meaningfully toward the sustained and necessary work to be done as members of this Friends school community.”
Read the full letter below:
Buckingham Friends School:
Paul Lindenmaier, Head of School, wrote:
“As an educational community established upon the foundation of the Religious Society of Friends, Buckingham Friends School believes that all people are equal and that all voices deserve to be heard, valued, and incorporated. We believe that a variety of experiences, perspectives, and identities are integral to the strength and continuous shaping of our interconnected community and the larger world.
Buckingham Friends School stands in unity with black people and people of color in the fight against institutional, systemic racism, and white supremacy, as we seek to participate in the advancement and realization of equity and justice for all. We join with and support everyone who steps up to voice their frustrations and anger at past and current injustices against black people and people of color. We join with and support those who step up to speak for others whose voices have been and are being oppressed.”
Read the full letter at the link below:
Read the interview ‘Should we tell the children? How?’ with Erlanger Turner, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Pepperdine University who studies mental health among racial communities:
Fairville Friends School:
Maia Tolsdorf, Head of School shared a message:
“Many of you are introduced to Quakerism through your child’s experiences at Fairville Friends School. By the side of your child, you learn the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship. For Quakers, commitment to those core values is measured in how we live our lives, both individually and also as a community.
Throughout history, Quakers have been known for speaking out against injustice, recognizing that true peace is not simply the absence of violence. Following this path, we are compelled to acknowledge our outrage and deep sadness over the tragic death of George Floyd, the many incidents of police violence against Black Americans, and systemic racial injustice here in America. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and affirm that Black lives matter.”
Read the full message at:
Friends Central School:
Head of School Craig N. Sellers shared the following with the FCS Community on Sunday evening:
“At this moment filled with sadness, all FCS employees stand with all of our colleagues, students, and parents of color, and especially our Black community members. Let me be explicit – at Friends’ Central School, Black Lives Matter. George Floyd’s life mattered. Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered. Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. Communities across our nation are questioning the impact of systemic racism on our society. As a school rooted in Quaker practice, when we witness injustice, we, too, are called to ask fundamental questions of ourselves. My prayer this evening is that the process of continuing revelation that starts with powerful questions brings us together on a shared path to a stronger community and deeper understanding.”
Read the entire message via the link below:
Friends School Haverford:
As a Quaker school that holds sacred the inherent value of each human life, Friends School Haverford joins with people across our city and nation to mourn the senseless loss of black lives and to stand against the institutionalized racism that allows such violence to happen again and again.
In seeing “that of God in everyone,” we are called to honor the life and mourn the tragic death of George Floyd, Breoanna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in recent weeks. We also remember those whose lives were lost in the months and years leading up to the events unfolding today: Philandro Castile, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin. These names have become a cry for justice on behalf of many other individuals whose lives have been cut short. For those of us raising children of color, those individuals are always and precisely that: someone’s child. While recent months have left us all reeling in the face of so much uncertainty, I know this much remains true: despite the ever-growing divisions in this country, parents everywhere are united by our most profound, shared fear that our children will not return home to us safely.
As I watch my neighborhood, the whole city, and communities around the country explode in anger and dissent, I’m painfully reminded of the urgency of our work as a Quaker school, as well as the challenges of doing that work from a distance. The thought of talking to children about what’s happening in our world right now via Zoom brings tears to my eyes; yet, I also immediately realize how small this challenge is when faced with the enormity of the history of injustice we must teach another generation of students. We have no choice but to live our mission: to help children find their voice, speak their truth, and use it for good.
Please join me in holding all who are grieving in the Light. Please join me in speaking out in protest against a pattern that must be broken. Please know that I speak for all of us at Friends School Haverford when I say that we are with you–as Quaker educators, as parents, as fellow citizens–in our commitment to what is just and right and kind. There is no other way.
Acting Head of School
Friends Select School:
A message from Friends Select’s head of school, Michael Gary:
“As a school community that embraces, teaches, and supports social justice, our hearts go out to the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, as well as to those communities and individuals like me who have been impacted by their deaths.
The impact on me has been particularly acute. As an African American male, husband, father, son, and brother, I have mixed emotions (depending on the day) of anger, sadness, disbelief, and, yes, fear. To get through the day, I usually have to suspend them. To imagine myself on the ground with a white police officer’s knee on my neck, not able to breathe, and crying for my mother, because of an alleged counterfeit $20 bill is hard to fathom. In these moments, being a first-generation private school college graduate with a Master’s degree and head of a historic Philadelphia independent Quaker school does not protect me as a black man in America. And to be reminded of this truth every day because of systemic racism is outrageous and frustrating.”
Read the full statement at:
Head of School Sam Houser shared the following message with the George School community on Monday, June 1, 2020:
“Now more than ever, an authentic Friends education must show its value to its proponents and the world. We must readily align our voices and our work as an educational institution with the work for justice.”
Read the entire message in the link below:
Germantown Friends School:
“There is a change in mindset that’s taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better.” – Barack Obama.
We affirm unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. The murders, systemic racism, and ongoing injustice facing our Black friends, neighbors, and communities must stop. Right now, more than ever, we are called as a school and a nation to take action and do more.
Our students, and our entire community, continue to inspire change – at school, in their communities, and throughout the country. This past week, our community paused to reflect and listen, and our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and families shared thoughtful, actionable ways that we can refocus our attention on dismantling systemic racism and growing as an anti-racist community. In unity, we identified steps to make these ideas happen.
We stand in solidarity with our Black students, faculty, staff, families, alumni, neighbors, and friends.
Linked are recent reflections from GFS, as well as resources and opportunities to take action.
View a statement shared on Friday, May 29 from Dana Weeks and Dr. Angela Campbell, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, regarding recent acts of racism:
With input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, GFS compiled the following list of resources and ways for us to take action:
Greene Street Friends School:
“I, along with Greene Street Friends School, hold fast to the following beliefs:
We Believe That Black Lives Matter. Black lives should have always mattered. Black lives will always matter in our community, and we work to dismantle the systems that oppress and devalue people of color.
We Believe That White People Have a Moral Obligation to Engage in Anti-Racism Work. If you would like to learn more about how to do that work, please click here [link in comments].
We Believe That Racial Identity Education and Empowerment is a Central Part of our Curriculum. Providing students with historical facts and vocabulary to address the patterns of racial injustice, while creating space to engage in courageous conversations that get emotional, is a powerful part of our mission to inspire and cultivate world changers, seekers of knowledge, equity and social justice.”
You can read Head of School Ed Marshall’s full letter to the Greene Street Friends School community and the ways we, as a community, recommit to racial justice here:
Resources for anti-racism work:
Gwynedd Friends School:
The school posted on Facebook the following message:
The events of the past week are heartbreaking. There is so much pain and suffering many of us are experiencing in response to the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky; and Ahmaud Arbery in Southeastern Georgia. We hold in the Light all of those working for justice through peaceful protest, as well as those trying to keep people safe during this time of unrest.
As a Quaker school, the testimonies often help guide us as we grapple with feelings of sadness and pain. At Gwynedd Friends School, we help our little people recognize and celebrate that of God, or the Inner Light, in everyone. Children learn about the testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship and how they can spread seeds of peace through their actions. Teachers provide windows and mirrors, ways in which children can see and honor others and themselves, through classroom materials, toys, and books.
At GFS, we believe everyone has a Light Within and should be treated with love and concern. As a faculty and staff, we must continue developing our testimony curriculum, providing more opportunities to explore race, equity, and justice with our young students. Considering the testimony of equality, especially as it relates to equity, is more important than ever before.
Although not in school together now, our community continues to be a place of support and connection. Please reach out if we can be a help to you or your children in any way.
Haddonfield Friends School:
An important message from our Head of School
Learning and Raising Awareness Together as a Community
Dear HFS Community,
On behalf of the School Committee, Haddonfield Monthly Meeting, Faculty, Staff, and PTO, I am writing to affirm that Haddonfield Friends School emphatically rejects racism and hate in any and every form. Today, and every day, we challenge ourselves as a community to learn and grow in alignment with Quaker values. As a Quaker community, we deeply believe that there is that of light/God in every one of us; that each and every person is equal in their worth and in their right to dignity, respect, and care.
Read the full statement at:
Media Providence Friends School:
A Message from Head of School T. Jon Re: George Floyd, Protests, & Processing with Our Students:
It’s impossible not to be shaken, saddened and angry at the senseless death of George Floyd on Monday. I know I speak for the entire faculty and staff when I join thousands of other organizations in offering our condolences to his family, his community, and African American communities across the nation.
While most of us have had our worlds turned sideways the last four months over a relatively temporary threat, this tragedy is a reminder that this is a permanent reality for too many around our nation.
I don’t pretend to know what will finally end this sort of senseless violence against the African American community. I do have to believe, though, that we have it within us, somehow, to find a way, and I know for certain that the values espoused by a Friends community can only be a part of the solution. In the meantime, it is important to voice our support for those who choose to protest in a peaceful way against the abuse of power and these injustices that continue to occur.
While the struggle to find that solution continues, I am convinced that a Friends education is more important than ever. Are we perfect? No. But we will continue to strive to be, knowing that perfection is not attainable. But peace and justice are. If we don’t believe that, we should not be working in the field of Friends education.
Moorestown Friends School:
Caring for Our Community: A Message and Resources from Head of School Julia de la Torre and Director of Diversity and Inclusion Dot López.
“As our nation and world continue to navigate life in the time of a pandemic, our country has experienced additional suffering this week as we watch incidents of racial injustice unfold on the news. Many MFS community members have expressed outrage and have shown concern for our students, families, and employees for whom these events go far beyond news headlines to something much more personal. As a Friends school, we are committed to equality and to honoring the Inner Light in all people. We also believe that the only way to combat hatred in our world is to raise our voices and take action to make our communities better.”
Read the statements and find resources at the link below:
Newtown Friends School:
Dana H. Harrison, Head of School:
“I write to you in the midst of a deeply alarming, but not surprising, moment in our American history. We have all witnessed the country-wide reactions to the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and before him, Brionna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, among many. There is rage, fear, and trepidation surrounding the unlawful deaths of black Americans, a reminder of the injustices of profiling, microaggressions, and long-term institutional racism. Today I express my aspirations for the Newtown Friends School Community moving forward, and hope to offer constructive avenues for processing the enormity of these historical moments.
Foundational in our mission as a community is to prepare each and every one of our students for a world that does not always hear or value all voices equally. As a Quaker elementary school, we strive to instill the strength, compassion, communication skills, and wisdom in our students not only to recognize these realities, but to confront them.”
Read the full letter at the link below:
Princeton Friends School:
Community Letter Following Protests and Unrest by Angela DeGraff:
“My heart is tender as I share the deep and collective pain that many within our cities, towns, nation and world have been experiencing these past days. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are a reminder of the racism and inequity that plague our communities. As an African American mother, who has raised four sons and a daughter, and has dedicated my professional life to educating young people, I am acutely aware of the impact of racial bias on people of all cultures. While children of color experience this bias in unique and different ways, I’ve seen the negative impact on all children.
In times of challenge, I ask myself, “What is the lesson I am to learn?” For me, the quest to discover and name the lesson leads me from the despair of hopelessness to the light of wisdom, and ultimately to love. It adds clarity to the steps I must take and the “call to action” I intend for community members, friends and loved ones.”
Read the full statement at:
United Friends School:
As a Quaker school, it is our practice and mission to discuss current events relating to injustice with our students at every grade level. Here is the message our preschool teachers sent to families. Hopefully, it can help guide families as they strive to eradicate inequality and become anti-racist.
“The events of the past week have brought the difficult reality of systemic racism and inequality to the forefront of our collective awareness. It is our responsibility as teachers and parents to be actively anti-racist, recognize our own bias and privilege, and advocate for the rights of all human beings to be treated with dignity, justice, and respect. We wanted to share these resources with you as a place to begin the conversations with your children. We use the terms “Upstander” and “Bystander” to describe our interactions during witnessed conflict in the classroom, and children understand that it is important not only to recognize unfairness or unkindness but to do something to help the individual being persecuted, whether by using their own voice or alerting an adult to assist in solving the conflict. Beyond these terms, we focus on providing books, dolls, and classroom images that are diverse and helping students embrace our individuality and differences.”
American Psychological Association: RESiliance: Uplifting youth through healthy communication about race:
How to talk to kids about race and racism – Parent Toolkit:
Beyond the Golden Rule – Teaching Tolerance:
Knowing Our History to Build a Brighter Future: Books to Help Kids Understand the Fight for Racial Equality by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich:
Tools, resources, discussion spaces, and networks to nurture inclusive, empathetic children of all types:
EmbraceRace has grown into a multiracial community of parents, teachers, experts, and other caring adults who support each other to meet the challenges that race poses to our children, families, and communities.
Westfield Friends School:
“As a community, Westfield Friends School has the ability to transform lives now. Our mission is to help children lead lives of conscience and consequence.
In age-appropriate ways, we are committed to teaching anti-racism and anti-oppression and giving children the courage to act on their convictions with compassion.
In partnership with our students’ parents and guardians, we are working together to give them the skills they need to transform their world.
Friends believe in continuing revelation, in the power of love, and have faith in a sustainable future for everyone.”
Tori Jueds, Head of School:
“Westtown School has committed itself to becoming a genuinely inclusive, anti-racist school. I write today to reaffirm that commitment. I join with countless Westonians in grief and heartbreak for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, but a few of the most recent victims of a long history of unconscionable racist violence in this country. For over two centuries, our school has drawn purpose and inspiration from the Quaker values of equality, justice, and peace. Today we stand firmly with peaceful protesters against police violence and endemic racism in their call for accountability and change.
Our school’s commitment to the goal of anti-racism is made in earnest. It is plainly stated in our strategic vision and it is intentionally growing throughout our curriculum and program. We have invited students, faculty, staff, and trustees of all backgrounds and identities to join this work. We have identified institutional growing edges and have exhorted all individuals in our community to personal reflection and growth. The work is often frustratingly slow and frequently interrupted. But to repeat what I and other Westtown leaders have said publicly on many occasions: the work is a priority for Westtown, and must be for all members of our community. This is the essence of our mission statement, which reminds us that every person on this earth is due honor, respect, and compassion by virtue of the spark of divinity that illuminates each of us.”
Read the full statement at the link below:
William Penn Charter School:
“The physical, emotional, and psychological weight that African Americans and people of color have had to carry, a weight that is even greater now, is a pain that must end. I am sorry for the pain of systematic racism and the trauma recent events have caused Penn Charter students, families, faculty, staff and OPCs of color. Black Lives Matter.”
Read Board Clerk Jeff Reinhold’s full statement at:
Wilmington Friends School:
Head of School, Ken Aldridge:
“As I have watched and read about the unfolding national landscape, it has taken me some time to process all that we are experiencing. As an African American father and husband, the events of the past two weeks have reopened challenging and difficult conversations with family, friends, and fellow educators. I have struggled to process all that is going on, the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the communities who have suffered over and over. And in the shadows of these recent events is the fact that minorities are disproportionately suffering and dying as we are dealing with our own realities, fears, and frustrations from COVID-19. These are unprecedented times.”
Read the full message at the link below:
“Bigotrys birthplace is the sinister back room of the mind where plots and schemes are hatched for the persecution and oppression of other human beings.” – Bayard Rustin.
These reactions are shared in the hope that they will inspire Friends communities and develop awareness of the messaging and impact of our region’s Quaker schools. Friends schools are nurturing young minds to think and act with strong Quaker values, and helping them learn to ‘be present’ in the world to solve many of the problems they will inherit.
Do you know a Friends School you’d like to have featured in a future article? If so, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.