Public Statement | June 3, 2020
Dear Members of the Magnificat Community:
In the days since our public statement regarding the video of a Magnificat student using a racial slur, we have received messages of concern and disappointment from members of the Magnificat community and the wider Cleveland community. In humility, we recognize and take responsibility for how our actions and inactions around this incident contributed to deepening the pain of racism, particularly as experienced by people of color within our community. I deeply apologize for that.
In particular, I would like to respond to two of the criticisms surfaced in how we addressed this incident: 1) the perceived inadequacy of the disciplinary action and 2) the private handling of the situation and lack of public acknowledgement.
With regard to the disciplinary action, we realize that our policy to protect the offending students’ privacy makes it appear that we are not being transparent. While we did not expel the students involved, we took action aligned with our Mission and in pursuit of restorative justice principles. As educators, we believe that, when students make serious offenses, they should have the opportunity to work to heal the harm that they caused and to grow from the situation.
Going forward, we continue to commit ourselves to employing fair and equitable disciplinary practices and policies rooted in both accountability and transformation. We will continue to evaluate our disciplinary policies around hate and bias for greater transparency so that all of our students feel fully supported. We will also continue to provide professional training for our faculty and staff around racial equity and restorative justice practices so that we can more fully implement both within our school community.
Concerning how we handled the incident privately in January, we recognize and regret that we missed an opportunity to better serve our community around this issue in that teachable moment. Going forward, we continue to commit ourselves to denouncing such incidents of hate and bias in our school, and to providing support to the victims or targeted community of any bias incidents.
We are committed to building a more racially just and equitable world, and have been engaged in this work for many years. We have worked in partnership with the educational organization Facing History and Ourselves for 20 years to train our faculty and students to critically examine history and the positive choices we can make to respond to hatred and bigotry. Understanding racial justice has been a primary component of our professional development efforts over the past two years, and we hired our first Director of Equity and Inclusion in July 2019.
As people of faith, we hear God’s loving call for individual and communal transformation in the struggle for racial justice in the larger community and in our own. In response, we will be forming an anti-racism task force that includes all levels of our constituents. The goal of the task force will be to plan and host listening and dialogue sessions this summer with members of our community about their experiences within the culture of Magnificat, that will be followed by a community summit designed to deepen the integration of racial justice in the relationships, practices, and policies of our community. We invite your participation, your voice, and your insight in these sessions. More details will be forthcoming.
Thank you for the feedback you have been giving us during this difficult and important time. Central to Mary’s Magnificat is the call to work for justice. We are catalyzed by the tragic events taking place in our country at this time, and we stand with the statement that the Sisters of the Humility of Mary Anti-Racism Task Force released yesterday. As a Magnificat community, we have important work to do to educate ourselves about the role we must play to dismantle racism in its many forms. I hope you will join us as we strive to be a more inclusive and welcoming community for all, and as we work toward healing and transformation in our school as well as in our communities, our nation, and our world.
Moira Clark ’77
May 29, 2020 Statement
Dear Members of the Magnificat Community and Others Concerned about the Recent Social Media Posting,
I am writing to let you know that I am aware of the highly inappropriate and offensive social media post involving a few of our students, which has recently gotten wider attention. As some of you may already know, a small group of our students engaged in a verbal exchange at a social gathering that was videotaped. The video is offensive and hurtful because of the explicitly racist nature of the language used and the way it was delivered. The post has been shared on social media, and individuals and communities from all corners have expressed appropriate condemnation.
This first came to my attention in January. At that time, the incident was immediately and fully investigated and disciplinary proceedings followed. Although we cannot disclose the outcomes of the proceedings due to privacy concerns, what I can tell you is we do not condone or tolerate racial slurs or hate speech. Such acts and words have no place in our school community. The inflammatory post is clearly inconsistent with the Magnificat mission and our community’s values, and student leadership has expressed their own condemnation of the attitudes expressed in these postings.
Our Mission to “educate young women holistically to learn, lead, and serve in the spirit of Mary's Magnificat” calls on each of us to foster an inclusive community. Compassion and respect are two of our core values and we explicitly strive to teach our students to “identify with others, to stand in their shoes” and to “avoid prejudices and pre-judgments.” We work hard to ensure that each of our young women has the skills and desire to work effectively with others whose viewpoints and experiences are different from their own. And although part of what we teach in our curriculum is that racism remains one of the major injustices of our time, this recent incident reminds us that we have much important work to do on this front, including within our own community.
We encourage all parents to talk with their children about their use of social media. As we have repeatedly done during school, counseling classes, and in special events that included guest speakers, we ask that you join us in reminding our students to be their best selves at all times, whether on social media or otherwise. Remind them that digital media is public and permanent. And encourage your children to serve as upstanders not bystanders when they are faced with a tough decision on whether or not to stand up for others.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the extreme backlash that has exploded on social media. Some individuals have gone too far and have made threats against our students. Those threats have been reported to the police. I want to remind our school community that we will not tolerate any sort of retaliation. We will always enforce disciplinary action as appropriate to ensure a safe and respectful learning environment for all.
For many years, our school has been working to become an increasingly diverse community, one committed to racial justice, equity, and inclusion. We have come a long way in many respects, and I am grateful for the work we are doing to make Magnificat a place where all students feel safe, respected, and affirmed in their diverse identities. I am extremely saddened for our community during this time, and I assure you that Magnificat remains committed to this important work. I pray that our conversations and reflections in light of this incident will only serve to bolster our unwavering dedication to equity and inclusion, specifically racial justice.
I truly believe that this will be a learning experience for us and that we will be a stronger, more respectful and compassionate community when we return to class in the fall.
In the Spirit of Mary’s Magnificat,
Moira Clark ’77