WASHINGTON — A decade after the Supreme Courtroom struck down segregated education in 1954, the president of a neighborhood affiliation right here wrote a letter urging leaders of native personal faculties to cease granting scholarships to additional the reason for integration, asserting that it was “unwholesome and unwise to have a scholar physique so miscegenated.”
One of many founders of Georgetown Day College, which had been built-in for 20 years at that time and whose inhabitants was one-fourth Black, wrote again.
Edith Nash, one of many faculty’s founders, famous that not solely had it “at all times had extra white candidates for scholarship help than Negro,” however “a completely blended enrollment is our intention,” in line with the letter, components of which have been revealed in The Washington Publish that yr.
“When you really feel this inhabitants is ‘miscegenated,’” she added, “that’s your downside.”
Almost 60 years later, the primary built-in faculty in Washington nonetheless firmly embraces the mission of its founders. Georgetown Day got here beneath a nationwide microscope this week within the escalating culture war over antiracism teaching in schools.
The conflict spilled into the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the primary Black girl nominated to the Supreme Courtroom, who has served on Georgetown Day’s board of trustees since 2019.
The elite personal faculty grew to become a goal of Republican senators, who portrayed it because the poster youngster for important race principle, a tutorial time period that conservatives have co-opted to problem efforts to show kids about racism and inequality.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, took intention at Georgetown Day in her opening remarks at Choose Jackson’s listening to on Monday. The college had hosted a “woke kindergarten” program, Ms. Blackburn asserted, and it had taught 5-year-olds that they will select their gender and “pushes an anti-racist schooling program for white households.”
Ms. Blackburn advised Choose Jackson that her “public endorsement of such a progressive indoctrination of our kids causes one nice concern relating to how you might rule on instances involving parental rights.”
However many Georgetown Day mother and father, college students and alumni say the college’s historical past of social justice activism and its antiracism efforts have been why they selected to enroll there.
In interviews, many individuals within the faculty’s group proudly cited Georgetown Day’s founding worth of racial equality, in defiance of segregation legal guidelines. The concept that college students have been being indoctrinated — and that the college’s core values have been being weaponized in opposition to the primary Black feminine nominee to the Supreme Courtroom — was as unjust because it was insulting, they mentioned.
“Georgetown Day College’s founding exemplifies what could be finest about this nation: individuals of various backgrounds coming collectively to make their group a greater place for everybody,” mentioned Debra Perlin, a father or mother of a first-grade scholar. She described the college as a “nurturing, caring and academically rigorous atmosphere.”
Forty p.c of the 1,075 kids who attend the college determine as college students of shade. Core to Georgetown Day’s tutorial imaginative and prescient is fostering open-mindedness and a collective dedication to justice, mother and father mentioned; it held a Transgender Day of Visibility final yr and a week of Black Lives Matter events this yr.
Chris Suarez, one other father or mother, mentioned he wouldn’t describe his kindergartner as “woke” however worldly. “My son brings residence books which are reflective of the range of cultures in america, that open him as much as many various views,” he mentioned. “And I believe that’s a priceless factor.”
Conservative lawmakers tried to color Choose Jackson as a champion of important race principle based mostly on her previous citations of authors and texts used to form fashionable civil rights debates — particularly, Derrick Bell, the lawyer who’s extensively credited with founding important race principle, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator The New York Occasions’s 1619 Project.
However Georgetown Day emerged as a stunning goal.
Positioned within the rich Tenleytown neighborhood in Northwest Washington, the college has for many years educated kids of the liberal and conservative elite. Dad and mom who select to enroll their kids purchase into its mission, for more than $40,000 a year.
That the curriculum is hardly foisted on households who search out the college appeared to matter little to Republicans who injected it into Choose Jackson’s hearings.
One of the crucial racially charged lines of questioning got here from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who claimed on Tuesday that Georgetown Day’s curriculum was “crammed and overflowing with important race principle.” Flanked by a blown-up web page from “Antiracist Child,” by Ibram X. Kendi, Mr. Cruz held up book after book that he described as assigned studying on the faculty and grilled Choose Jackson about whether or not she endorsed their messages.
He went on to read a passage from another of Dr. Kendi’s books, “Stamped (For Children): Racism, Antiracism and You,” which is also in the library catalog and on studying lists on the private school in Houston that Mr. Cruz’s children attend.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Cruz mentioned his questions weren’t meant to problem mother and father’ decisions or personal faculties’ autonomy to find out their very own programming — rights that Republicans champion.
“I’m saying that Choose Jackson is on the board of a faculty that aggressively teaches important race principle,” he mentioned, “and that’s an excessive and divisive principle that pits kids in opposition to different kids, divides us based mostly on race, and teaches a false and revisionist historical past of our nation.”
Choose Jackson advised Mr. Cruz that she had not reviewed the books and that they don’t come up in her work.
However what resonated most amongst members of the Georgetown Day group was her description of the college’s “particular historical past,” citing the Jewish and Black households who banded collectively to create the establishment in 1945 as a result of their kids couldn’t attend public faculties collectively.
“The thought of equality, justice, is on the core of the Georgetown Day College mission,” Choose Jackson, whose mother and father attended segregated faculties, told Mr. Cruz. “It’s a non-public faculty such that each father or mother who joins the group does so willingly, with an understanding that they’re becoming a member of a group that’s designed to make it possible for each youngster is valued, each youngster is handled as having inherent price, and none are discriminated in opposition to due to race.”
Aidan Kohn-Murphy, a senior at Georgetown Day and the president of the Pupil Workers Council, its scholar authorities, mentioned he was “confused” by the “gotcha questions,” given the college’s historical past.
Mr. Kohn-Murphy has attended Georgetown Day for the reason that fourth grade, and he mentioned he couldn’t recall being instructed in important race principle or studying any of the books that Mr. Cruz displayed. However together with “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Nice Gatsby,” he mentioned he had learn books that reinforce the notion that the “struggle in opposition to racism just isn’t being colorblind, not pretending that racism doesn’t exist.”
“Nobody is indoctrinating anybody,” he added. “We’re studying from the previous.”
Georgetown Day has additionally taught Mr. Kohn-Murphy tips on how to weigh various views, he mentioned. In eighth grade, college students are required to finish a venture on a constitutional situation and to interact with audio system who maintain opposing views. His group selected affirmative motion. One of many audio system his group invited was Edward Blum, the conservative legal strategist who has fought to overturn affirmative motion in faculty admissions and who helped deliver a case in opposition to Harvard College to the Supreme Courtroom this yr.
Choose Jackson is certainly one of 23 members of Georgetown Day’s board of trustees; her finest buddy and college roommate, Lisa Fairfax, a regulation professor on the College of Pennsylvania, is the board’s chairwoman. Choose Jackson wouldn’t be the one Supreme Courtroom justice with ties to Georgetown Day: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall, the primary Black Supreme Courtroom justice, additionally despatched their kids there and Justice Marshall sat on its board of trustees.
Georgetown Day describes the board as working intently with its head of college to make sure its “short- and long-term monetary well being” and to safeguard its “founding function as a racially and religiously inclusive faculty whose academic philosophy derives from the assumption that range is the bottom out of which nice studying grows.”
Spokeswomen for Georgetown Day and its board of trustees didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The Republican Nationwide Committee this week despatched an e mail taking intention on the faculty’s not too long ago enacted Anti-Racism Action Plan, citing components like affinity groups, which it mentioned amounted to “racial segregation.”
The motion plan features a litany of range, inclusion and fairness efforts, together with “anti-racist education programming for white families,” a brand new mentoring program for college of shade and contemplating classroom demographics as a part of the position course of for college kids.
At a parent meeting the place the top of college mentioned the plan, Ms. Fairfax launched a new provision in the enrollment contract that folks signal, the college newspaper reported in January. The availability required that folks “acknowledge and perceive that G.D.S. is an establishment that values range, fairness and inclusion, and that has made a dedication to work actively in opposition to particular person and systemic racism, hatred, oppression and bigotry of any variety.” By signing the doc, mother and father agree to affix within the faculty’s efforts, it mentioned.
The availability solely formalizes what many alumni and oldsters described as an unwritten contract that had been understood for many years.
Sean Fantastic, the father or mother of a junior who has attended the college for the reason that second grade, mentioned his son was studying tips on how to confront the identical societal points the college was grappling with when he graduated in 1992.
“Our youngsters usually are not robots,” Mr. Fantastic mentioned. “They’re not advised what to suppose, they’re taught tips on how to query, they usually’re uncovered to concepts in an open atmosphere.”
Referring to Mr. Cruz’s assault, he added: “They’re being taught tips on how to determine issues like this — ways that divert away from what we actually have to be speaking about.”
Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting, and Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.