Statement of the Board of Trustees of Episcopal High School Providing Strategic Direction for Diversity, Community, and Inclusion
Episcopal High School’s Mission states, “Episcopal High School, founded and guided by the Diocese of Texas, is an inclusive and joyful Christian community where students discover and develop their individual talents through the Four Pillars – academics, arts, athletics, religion – preparing for meaningful lives in service to others.”
In this statement, the Board reaffirms that Diversity, Community, and Inclusion, are, as they have always been, a central tenet of Episcopal High School that should inform academic, community, and student life.
The Board reaffirms its belief that EHS has flourished as a result of two differentiating factors: (1) through the Four Pillars, EHS is the best school to develop well-rounded students and citizens, and (2) its Mission directs it to be an “inclusive and joyful Christian community.[ 1 ] The first factor speaks to the recognition that each student is an individual, with unique God-given talents and abilities. The focus of our school and its community is to help each individual realize fully his or her promise and highest character through experiences in all of the Four Pillars. The second factor speaks to the fact that EHS has been, is, and will be a heterogeneous and welcoming community that operates within the values of our faith. At Episcopal High School, our community is one of our greatest strengths.
DCI Throughout Our History
EHS has embraced Diversity, Community, and Inclusion (DCI) concepts that are consistent with its Mission since its founding. One can find evidence of this in EHS’s early motto, “It takes all kinds!” Decades of experience at EHS demonstrate that students of all backgrounds and social groups thrive at EHS and beyond based on their unique talents, experiences, hard work, and the academic, religious, and character education the school provides. We celebrate the unique merit of all students of all backgrounds and believe in developing their talents, diligence, and resiliency. We cultivate respect for and empowerment of the individual and reject stereotypes and prejudices. We are strengthened by the lively exchange of ideas among individuals of different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives. Our curriculum strives to amplify this commitment and uplift everyone. Every EHS student must know they are known, respected and divinely loved.
DCI and Our Episcopal Identity
As reflected in EHS’s Mission, the school operates within the beliefs and traditions of the Episcopal Church, which teach that all people are created equal and entitled to equal dignity. Our beliefs, including the Baptismal Covenant, instruct that we should seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.[ 2 ] There are clear Biblical messages addressing community and DCI issues, and the following faith-based messages – rather than any particular secular program or pedagogy – serve as our guide: [ 3 ]
- We embrace the equal creation of all people as children of God; [ 4 ]
- We express respect for differing individual talents and characteristics, as well as finding meaning in each individual’s unique role and contribution; [ 5 ]
- We each accept personal responsibility for our own behavior, sin, and treatment of others. Simultaneously, we reject the idea of guilt by association or blaming someone because of the actions of his or her family, race, or other group in past generations; [ 6 ]
- We express love for God and our neighbor, while providing help for those in need; [ 7 ]
- We view the instruction to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” as a call to respect, good faith, and fair dealing among members of the EHS community; [ 8 ] and
- We hear and follow God’s call to live in inclusive and peaceful communities. [ 9 ]
Since its founding, these values have helped EHS, and the Board directs the administration, faculty, and staff to use these values to guide EHS into the future. As the school and its students face the challenges of the twenty-first century, these invigorating principles will enhance understanding and respect within our inclusive and joyful Christian community.
We embrace a curriculum that builds in our students the skills necessary to become leaders in an increasingly globalized and multicultural world. EHS’s classrooms facilitate free inquiry and discussion, and they are and should be places where our students can be exposed to, and discuss, ideas, even those that cause discomfort. It is that intellectual debate and discomfort that creates a freedom to think, formulate, challenge, defend, and grow – all in a civil manner and respectful environment. All curriculum, including that which is or becomes controversial, should be age-appropriate. Certain secular and political concepts are inconsistent with EHS’s values, [ 10 ] and to the extent that they are addressed at EHS – whether in classes, faculty or student programs, or any other EHS activity – three principles must apply:
- No work or viewpoint on these topics should be presented in isolation or as fact. Juxtaposing views and engaging critically with different views may be appropriate;
- Students, faculty, and staff should be free to respectfully debate the merits and shortcomings of these concepts without fear of retribution; and
- Teachers, clergy, and coaches serve an essential role in the work of EHS and the education of our students. Their focus should remain on a rigorous and enriching curriculum that best prepares students to achieve their full potential in the Four Pillars, and they should avoid endorsing or encouraging students to adopt particular social or political views or causes.
DCI in Action
As an overarching principle, all DCI-related curriculum and training should focus on methods that help students, faculty, and staff gain greater understanding of themselves, other members of the EHS community, and the broader community in order to more fully equip them for meaningful lives in service to others. Such curriculum and training should be consistent with the Mission and this resolution. For these reasons, during the 2020-21 school year, the Board declined to form exclusionary affinity groups, but instead supported students meeting in voluntary, inclusive identity-based groups within Diversity in Action, a decades-old school organization. These groups, which are facilitated by advisors and a faculty member from the Religion Pillar, are structured to encourage fellowship, understanding, the unity of the EHS community, and EHS’s Mission and values.
The Board directs that EHS provide this statement to all current families and all members of the faculty, staff, and administration within 30 days of its adoption.
The Board looks forward to continuing its work to help EHS successfully fulfill its Mission, including providing support for DCI concepts that are consistent with the Mission.
1) For years, the EHS website has featured a sermon by the Rt. Rev. Maurice M. Benitez, who served as the sixth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and who played an integral role in EHS’s founding and development. In his sermon, Bishop Benitez described the pillars and community this way:
Now those who had the dream, the vision for this school, were not just seeking to start “a” school, but rather a special kind of school having as a principle—or Pillar as we put it—first a commitment to academic excellence, but not meaning academic elitism wherein we would take as students only those of high IQ and academic potential. Certainly we want our share of gifted students, but we also want students of average ability. Our goal is to enable each one that comes to us—the gifted and the average, as well—to fulfill their God-given potential to develop his or her intellect, to develop skills in all academic disciplines, to appreciate and participate in a strong fine arts program, to participate in a strong athletic program, and in all of this, to gather a storehouse of knowledge, enabling each to live the fullest kind of life.
And to us, education also involves learning self-discipline, leadership, responsibility, integrity, and respect for others. The next Pillar, we unashamedly teach and profess our Christian religion, the Holy Scriptures, and the moral values that issue from our faith, doing so, not in a doctrinaire way, trying to compel anyone to believe what we believe, but rather, trying to present our Christian Faith in its most winsome form! And we could hope that their experience here might offer each student an opportunity to know Jesus Christ if they have not already come to know Him, and to pattern their lives according to His teachings.
The next Pillar of the dream—and maybe the most important if the first ones are to be reached—is that this school be a Christian Community where every member, each student, each faculty and staff member, be treated as a beloved child of God. And, for that reason, from the first day since our doors were opened, you could walk the halls of this school and see smiles on the faces of the students, and see smiling faculty members who love this school. This describes the vision we have sought to uphold.
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2) Baptismal Covenant, Book of Common Prayer, p. 305 (“Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? People: I will, with God's help. Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? People: I will, with God's help.”). [ Back ]
3) Colossians 2:8. [ Back ]
4) Galatians 3:26-28 & the Baptismal Covenant. [ Back ]
5) 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (One Body, Many Parts); Psalm 139:14. [ Back ]
6) John 9:1-3 (Jesus healed the blind man and rejected the accusation that he was blind due to his parents’ sin); Luke 10:25-37 (judging the Samaritan on his individual character and actions, not rejecting him because of his ethnicity); Jeremiah 31:29-30 and Deuteronomy 24:16 (each will die for his own sin, not for the sins of his father or forefathers). [ Back ]
7) Luke 10:25-37 – the Good Samaritan. [ Back ]
8) Matthew 7:9-12 (“…So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”). [ Back ]
9) Romans 12:10, 16, & 18 (“Be devoted to one another… Live in harmony with one another… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.”); Colossians 3:15 (“… as members of one body, you were called to peace.”). [ Back ]
10) These concepts include dehumanizing individuals, segregation, fascism, Marxism, and the following ideas associated with critical race theory: race essentialism, identity-based intersectionality, and assertions that any race, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, EHS, or the United States is inherently or irredeemably discriminatory, racist, sexist, or oppressive. These concepts are based on division, stereotypes, ignoring individual agency and differences, and reductive and nihilistic views about humanity. In light of our school’s dual commitments to its Mission and core values as well as to a rigorous academic experience that develops students who are well-prepared for a full life after graduation, it is appropriate to provide clear principles when these concepts are addressed. [ Back ]