St. Albans School, a prestigious boys school in Washington D.C., has recently come under fire for its new “anti-bias” hate speech policy that asks students to inform on each other.
St. Albans, established in 1909 and located in the shadow of the National Cathedral, is known as “one of the most prestigious college preparatory schools in the United States,” with alumni that include former vice presidents and two current U.S. senators. The school is only for boys and is a day and boarding school. Tuition and fees for day students cost $50,000 a year, while boarding students pay $70,000 a year.
According to the school’s website, St. Albans is an Episcopal school that places “equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.”
Following the death of George Floyd in 2020 and the subsequent protests, St. Albans officials promised to put more of an emphasis on fighting racism in their school. Before the 2021 fall semester began, teachers were required to read Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nenisi Coates.
The anti-bias policy was proposed around the same timeframe, and it is still unclear if the policy has been implemented into the school’s daily operations.
The policy encourages students to report inappropriate and insensitive speech, and the documents say: “It is the impact of hate speech, rather than the intent of those perpetrating it, that is of utmost importance. We also expect that anyone, whether student, faculty, staff, or family member who witnesses, or has knowledge of an incident of hate speech, will report the incident to the appropriate individual.”
The document goes on to promise that any person who reports on another does not have to fear punishment for coming forward.
The school now has an “Alliance of White Antiracists” club and has woven texts on Critical Race Theory and other radical and divisive ideologies into the curriculum. Three books found in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion section of the school’s online resources are: “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic; “White Fragility: Why It’s Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” by Robin DiAngelo; and “Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” by Ibram X. Kendi.
Other books found in the school’s resources discuss LGBTQ+, “microaggressions and bias,” race, inclusion, and gender.
An alumnus recalled happier times at the school. “St. Albans used to have a simple honor code: Don’t lie, cheat, or steal,” he said. “Everything else was adjudicated human-to-human. Now boys are being policed for humor, and innocuous comments are subject to the highest form of punishment.”
Young people make mistakes. That is part of life. When a young person does make a mistake, it is important for trusted people in their lives — parents, teachers, coaches, pastors — to correct their behavior and encourage them to grow, learn from the mistake, and move on. That is also how a civil society is designed to help children learn often unwritten social rules and expectations.
St. Albans’ policies, by contrast, expect perfection from children from the get-go and severely punish those children for the slightest mistake, a mistake, by the way, that is defined by an ever-changing speech code, not an objective moral or societal standard.
While there are instances where a student might say or do something worthy of expulsion, this school is heading down a dangerous path when it chooses to expel or ostracize students based solely on speech that offends or doesn’t align with someone else’s opinion or worldview. Moreover, they are teaching children to become judgmental, self-righteous, and vengeful snitches, an environment that will only breed resentment, distrust, and — ironically — hate within the student body.
If students are required to self-censor their thoughts and words just so they can retain their place at a school they want to attend, they no longer have free speech. They don’t even have free thought.
And if St. Albans insists on this policy, it should seriously consider changing its mission statement as it is no longer a school that emphasizes “spiritual and moral education.” If it were, officials at this Episcopal institution would instead be teaching and practicing the core Christian value of not just tolerance but also grace and mercy as explained in Colossians 3:13, ESV: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”