Following the turbulent takeover of the Capitol that took place in our nation’s capital on Wednesday, January 6, Head of School Laura Danforth addressed the community with the following message.
Danforth reminded us that “the peaceful transfer of power is the hallmark of our democracy” and “the violent culmination of what has been an emotionally charged and deeply controversial electoral process may have an emotional impact on students and families.”
She explained that faculty from both divisions would be addressing the aftermath with students in thoughtful, supportive ways. The School’s counseling team would also be available to offer a safe and confidential space for comfort and discussion.
Head of Upper School Peter Newcomb noted that finding time and space together is essential. “We spent time in the morning discussing the events and then created talking circles and affinity spaces throughout the day for students who wanted to process it with others,” he said.
During a special Morning Meeting, Head of Middle School Tasha Elsbach showed a PBS video recapping the events and shared thoughts about the democratic process before students met with their advisory groups. “One of the fundamental aspects of a democracy is that we have different viewpoints,” she explained. “We will not agree. We will disagree but violence is unacceptable.”
Some classes took time to discuss the historical context of the day.
“Many students pointed out that during the attacks in D.C., the police appeared to be passive and reacted with little to no force, while in reaction to the peaceful marches by Black Lives Matter protesters, police arrived heavily armed and used tear gas and other much more forceful measures,” said Upper School History teacher Eric Shapiro.
In Colleen Roche’s AP US History class, students were learning about the 1876 election, which led to the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and the law governing the current proceedings in Congress this week. “That context is actually quite important, as it helps the students to understand that the country has come through political crises before, and we will get through this too,” she said.
“As I said to my students, the study of history teaches them to always question sources, to analyze sources for bias, and the importance of seeking multiple perspectives in order to fully understand an event. We need those skills more than ever now,” added Roche.