Letter to the MB Community

October 5, 2017

Dear Moses Brown Community,

As many of you are aware, our school was in the news last weekend because of the actions of one of our coaches. Over the past several days I have heard from many members of our community describing what happened as either courageous and inspiring, or irresponsible and disrespectful. I am writing to make sure that everyone has the same information in the hope that we can open dialogue and move forward as a community.

On Saturday, golocalprov.com published the news that one of Moses Brown’s coaches had decided to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. Without seeking his consent or comment, the website shared the letter the coach had sent in advance to parents explaining his decision and the discussion he had with his team. The story elicited a lot of comments both for and against that reflect the intense national debate on this issue.

I’d like to clarify the school’s position on this matter.

In his letter to parents, the coach clearly explained that his decision was a personal one and that it had a single purpose: to protest racial injustice in America. Unfortunately, many interpreted his kneeling differently: as an overtly political act, a protest against the president, or a sign of disrespect to the military.

Such divergent opinions reflect the complex reality of life in America. We know that the vitality of our society is made possible by the unique blessings and freedom of living in the United States. At the same time, we know that racial injustice is still pernicious and pervasive more than two hundred years after the founding of our nation.

Understanding that reality, we need to honor the perspectives of all who care deeply for MB. To that end, I want to be clear in stating my belief that people who work at Moses Brown should not use their position for advancing a particular political agenda within the school. To those who saw our coach’s action in that light, I want to apologize, especially to those who have served in the military and may have seen this act as a sign of disrespect to their service.

At the same time, I want to be clear that as a Quaker school Moses Brown will always forcefully align itself with the broad humanitarian principles of equity, inclusivity, and respect for all. Hatred and the denial of racial injustice in our country have no place at Moses Brown. These principles are central to our mission, separate from politics.

Statements that uphold the dignity and worth of fellow students, teachers, families, and citizens are welcome in our school; overt statements for or against politicians or political parties are not. In the case of our coach, I believe that he met these standards by making his intent clear, and moving ahead, we will apply this same test in assessing this or similar forms of peaceful protest.

At Moses Brown, our goal is to help students develop their passions and identity, to form their own understanding of the world, and to have the courage to stand up for what they feel is right. Part of the way we do that is by modeling and engaging students in meaningful dialogue about difficult subjects. Last week, for example, eighth graders had a wide ranging debate about kneeling during the anthem, and this week many advisories and classes in the Upper School are doing the same.

The goal of these discussions is never to convince our students to think a certain way; it’s to listen to all perspectives, challenge assumptions, and encourage students to form their own opinions. In the process, we hope they’ll develop the cognitive and emotional sophistication to discern the truth that often lies on multiple sides of a complex issue.

I believe there is important learning and healing to be discovered in that kind of dialogue, if we can be patient and courageous enough to listen to each other. It’s only through open and honest exchange of ideas that we can maintain a community where all people feel valued and respected.

In friendship, and with care for our entire community,

Matt Glendinning
Head of School
Moses Brown School