Susan Edelman and Dana Kennedy | New York Post | Dec 19, 2020
One of NYC’s poshest private schools is in an uproar over an anti-racist manifesto signed by dozens of faculty members with a sweeping list of demands.
The Dalton School — which boasts stars Anderson Cooper, Christian Slater and Claire Danes as alumni — is wrestling with eight pages of “proposals” to overhaul the staffing, curriculum and treatment of black students.
Yearly tuition for grades K-12 at the Upper East Side institution is $54,180 a year.
The proposals — first reported this week by The Naked Dollar blog — grew out of the George Floyd police-brutality protests and long-simmering student complaints of racism at the prestigious school.
But some parents say the backlash has become oppressive.
“My ancestors experienced white supremacy by being slaughtered,” a Jewish parent told The Post. “The idea that being white automatically means you are privileged or a white supremacist is ridiculous. My child comes from people who had to fight for everything they got.
“It’s just about skin color now.”
Those who disagree remain silent, the insider said. “Parents are terrified to speak up for fear of retribution. Parents are acting like spineless wimps.”
One Dalton father, who said he’s removed his children from the school as a result of the manifesto, said Dalton “has totally failed in its mission to uplift the very people it professes to help.
“It’s completely absurd and a total step backwards,” the father, who did not want to be identified, told the Post.
“This supposed anti-racist agenda is asking everyone to look at black kids and treat them differently because of the color of their skin,” he said. “The school is more focused on virtue-signaling this nonsense than it is in actually helping students of color. More parents are going to be pulling their kids out.”
The wide-ranging faculty demands include:
Hiring 12 full-time diversity officers, and multiple psychologists to support students “coping with race-based traumatic stress.”
Assigning a staffer dedicated to black students who have “complaints or face disciplinary action,” and a full-time advocate to help black kids “navigate a predominantly white institution.”
Paying the student debt of black staffers upon hiring them.
Requiring courses that focus on “Black liberation” and “challenges to white supremacy.”
Compensating any student of color who appears in Dalton promotional material.
Abolishing high-level academic courses by 2023 if the performance of black students is not on par with non-blacks.
Requiring “anti-racism” statements from all staffers.
Overhauling the entire curriculum, reading lists and student plays to reflect diversity and social justice themes.
Divesting from companies that “criminalize or dehumanize” black people, including private prisons and tech firms that manufacture police equipment or weapons.
Donating 50 percent of all fundraising dollars to NYC public schools if Dalton is not representative of the city in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic background, and immigration status by 2025.
Dalton officials said the document is just “a set of thought-starters created last summer by a group of faculty and staff responding to Dalton’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution.
“The school does not support all the language or actions it contains.” it added.
“Dalton’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism is grounded in our deep appreciation for the dignity of all community members, an understanding of differing life backgrounds, empathy for one another, and the ability to engage and listen with respect across differences,” the school said in a statement to The Post.
But Naked Dollar blogger Scott Johnston, who first revealed the manifesto Thursday, said of the demands: “Dalton’s teachers are refusing to come back until they are met.”
The Dalton spokesman rebutted, “We’re expecting all teachers to return after winter break.”
Johnston — the author of “Campusland,” a humorous novel about the “woke” college climate — said the “meltdown” at Dalton reflects the angst and self-imposed guilt of elite private schools across the country.
“This isn’t just Dalton, but one of the most extreme examples,” he told The Post. “There’s a rituatualistic self-abasement these private schools feel they have to subject themselves to.”
Sources told Johnston that Dalton kids were made to watch a PBS video called Being 12, in which “white kids are shamed for the sin of their skin color and told they are complicit in perpetuating racism.”
A Dalton fourth-grade play featured a role for a “Racist Cop,” Johnston reported, adding that the faculty petition includes a demand that every school play have anti-racist narratives. “I’m told even ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is out these days. It’s a white man trying to save a black man. Can’t have that sort of racial paternalizing.”
In revealing the turmoil, Johnston wrote, “The rich parents play the game. They go along with every progressive fad conjured up by the administration and faculty. Many embrace them.”
But the Dalton parent who spoke to The Post predicted that 30 to 40 percent of parents of kids in the Class of 2025 will pull them out of the school and transfer them as a result of the manifesto.
Making the situation more tense, some Dalton parents are fuming over the school’s resistance to reopening classrooms since the COVID-19 outbreak, remaining fully remote while other private and public schools have resumed some or all in-person instruction.
“We are, in short, frustrated and confused and better hope to understand the school’s thought processes behind the virtual model it has adopted,” a group of parents describing themselves as physicians wrote in a letter to head of school Jim Best, Bloomberg reported in early October.
A petition signed by more than 70 lower-school parents asked for the return of on-campus classes, Bloomberg reported. “Zoom-school is not Dalton,” it said.
But that petition was seen by some as racist because faculty of color were more likely to live in the outer boroughs or neighborhoods with high rates of COVID-19.
Dalton announced last month that it will offer campus instruction as well as remote instruction in January.