EDGEWORTH, Pa. (KDKA) – There have been issues with inclusivity at Sewickley Academy for months.
Several administrators and faculty members at Sewickley Academy have been fired since the summer. It reached a turning point on Thursday when police were called to the school in response to students and parents who raised their concerns.
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The students were not happy, and several started a petition to address their concerns. According to parents at Sewickley Academy, students were called to a high school meeting on Thursday to consider the petition.
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Principals said some students felt pressured to sign the petition. KDKA was told to the organizers, and some allies then went to speak to the senior high school principal about the concerns.
“I was really proud of her. That was very brave of them,” said parent Lisa Wren.
Wren left to support her daughter, as did Mark Cox and his wife. They said the meeting ended with the principal leaving.
“All of the students felt let down and not listened to,” said Cox.
The group said they then went to take the petition to Dr. Ashley Birtwell, the Headmistress. By this time, more students and at least one faculty member had joined.
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“It was a peaceful effort to present her with a petition in support of caring for her classmates,” Wren said.
as dr Birtwell was unavailable, Cox and Wren said Deputy Principal Ken Goleski confronted the group, called the police and fired a faculty member on the spot.
“For the police to escort me off campus where my children have been for more than 10 years is just surreal. It’s totally inappropriate,” Cox said. “It shouldn’t have ended like this.”
However, the school said in a message to parents: “Unfortunately, today there was a situation that made it necessary to contact the local authorities to ensure everyone’s safety. The authorities have since left the campus as the situation has been resolved.”
“What a total misrepresentation of the facts,” said Cox.
A strike outside the school is now planned for Friday morning, but the school announced Thursday night that sixth form students will study virtually on Friday.
— Chris Hoffman (@NewsmanChris) March 4, 2022
Sewickley Academy sent this response to KDKA-TV Thursday night.
“Please note that at Sewickley Academy we have always encouraged our community to voice their ideas and help take our learning to new heights. However, such initiatives must be carried out in a constructive and inclusive manner. As such, we are deeply saddened by the recent events at the Academy and the decision by members of our community to voice their opinions in an unproductive manner that has also transformed our once safe space into one that feels anything but. This is not in line with our core values and is counterproductive as we try to build a better academy for the future.”
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Birtwell emailed families and students about the incident Thursday night. It can be found below.
Dear Sewickley Academy Community,
To my great disappointment, I am writing to share an incident that occurred on campus this morning. Today’s activities did not reflect the Academy and our core values.
Tensions on campus have increased this school year, particularly within the senior school. I have heard many views and voices throughout the year and have worked hard to nurture and build our community at Sewickley Academy. Last week, I informed senior school families that certain senior school faculty members had inappropriately shared information about personnel changes with students inside and outside of the classroom. I began a discussion today with some of these faculty members, as well as several board members, to determine a productive and collaborative way to ease tension in the last trimester of the school year. This discussion also included a request that an unauthorized opt-in session on Critical Race Theory (CRT) scheduled by certain faculty members for noon today be postponed to a later date.
Sewickley Academy has offered numerous initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the school year, with more planned ahead of the summer holidays. With all of these programs and plans already underway, the Board of Trustees and I expressed our concern to the faculty that their proposed opt-in may diverge from our efforts to strengthen our community. CRT is a complex topic and we believe it is important that any potential discussion on this topic is coordinated with all of the work and progress that we have made. As an institution committed to academic excellence, it is also important that any discussion of CRT is conducted in a responsible manner by professionals with the appropriate qualifications.
To that end, instead of proceeding with the opt-in, we have asked the faculty members to instead work with us to present the issue in a time and manner that has the support and input of our board, our parents, the DEI Consulting firm we work with and our DEI Task Force. Unfortunately, these faculty members turned down the motions of the board and myself.
From what I understand, during this meeting, students and parents gathered for a discussion that may have spread rumors and misinformation throughout the senior school. This resulted in the news media being notified and about 25 to 30 members of the academy community entering my office shortly after the faculty meeting ended. Although Academy staff attempted to calmly guide the group and urged them to disperse, the group refused to cooperate and their disorderly behavior escalated. As a precaution, the police were called to maintain order and ensure everyone’s safety.
I am working closely with the appropriate parties to discuss applicable consequences that appropriately reflect the severity of today’s events, which were wholly avoidable.
We believe in fostering healthy discourse on issues that are important to the school community. And we pride ourselves on being a safe, open and inclusive place, especially for our students. Today, however, a group of individuals have violated the spirit of our core values.
Today’s events leave us at a tipping point, and we have determined that it is in the best interests of our students, faculty and community to take a moment to stop, reflect and regroup. To this end, we have canceled sixth form classes for tomorrow, Friday March 4, 2022. Preschool through 8th graders will have conferences/classes as usual.
The Trustees and I wish to remind our community that continued disruption is counterproductive to our learning environment and our ability to address issues that are important to our community as a whole. Let’s continue to work together in the future to remain focused on quality education for our children, the safety of our community and our continued work to build a better academy for the future.
https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2022/03/04/police-called-to-sewickley-academy-students-and-parents-raise-concerns-inclusiveness/ Police called Sewickley Academy after students and parents raised concerns about inclusion – CBS Pittsburgh