It was a cold winter morning when we stepped off the bus. Like any fourth grade student, taking a day off school to go on a field trip presented me with endless potential to have fun and get into mischief. I was told to line up while they gave out tickets, and I walked with my classmates into Memorial Auditorium talking with my friends about football, video games, and whatever else was going on in my life that week. As I took my seat inside the auditorium, I cared little about what I was about to watch. I was just excited to be out of the classroom and with my friends!
The day proceeded to take an unexpected turn. We watched a play that reenacted multiple civil rights stories including those of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. I was immediately captivated. What I was watching not only interested me, but it stirred in me a painful thought: why would anyone treat someone differently because of the color of their skin? I attended Silverdale from kindergarten all the way to my senior year of high school, and the only thing I saw consistently was teachers and administrators who cared about students and truly saw us as Children created in the image of God. The thought that God’s image bearers were treated differently just a few generations earlier solely because of their race made me sick to my stomach. This created in me a desire to ensure this never happens around me.
In the subsequent years, Silverdale had me read books like Mildred Taylor’s Role of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, or Elie Wiesel’s Night; all of which every American should read to better understand the sad reality of racism and discrimination that has stained our history. At the same time, Silverdale had me memorize scriptures like Psalm 139:14 or Genesis 1:27 that describe how God fearfully and wonderfully created humans in His image. From racism to abortion, Silverdale taught me to apply the principles of our value in God’s eyes to everything.
Thus, last month, when I saw the story of the boy whose mother refused his admission because of his hair, I was shocked. It did not sound like anything Silverdale would do, especially considering that I had fellow classmates who had dreadlocks. From our local news to a newspaper in the UK, the way most of our media covered this story was disturbing and borderline libelous.
Silverdale has some rules for its students that I as a former student do not agree with. One of those is its policy on hair. Regardless of how I feel about this, I was not allowed to grow my hair past my shoulders. This would be the case if my hair was straight, curly, or if I had dreadlocks. As Mrs. Hansard - the head of school at Silverdale - came out and said, this policy has nothing to do with the child having dreadlocks, and everything to do with the length of the child’s hair. Many times in life, there are rules that make little sense to us, but we have to follow them. If they bother us enough, there are appropriate ways to try to get them changed. As students, we tried to ask Silverdale to change its policy on hair length and facial hair many times. They always attentively listened to us and considered our requests, but they ultimately decided to keep the rules. They applied these rules equally to all males attending the academy, white or black. We never tried to publicly defame the school as a response.
As a former student here, I have known both Mrs. Hansard and Mrs. McCoy (the Middle School principal) for the last 16 years. I may not have always agreed with them, but I love them and have the utmost respect for them. Just a few months ago, I actually ran into Mrs. McCoy at a car dealership as I was getting my oil changed. I told her how I was preparing to take my law school admissions test, and she asked me what day it was so she could write it on her calendar and pray for me. That is the type of care I received as a student throughout my 13 years at Silverdale. I can promise that neither Mrs. Hansard nor Mrs. McCoy have a racist bone in their body. They have nothing but love for their students, no matter their race, gender, religion, or other personal characteristics.
As a former Silverdale student, I am deeply hurt and saddened by the attacks on my school. Silverdale is a school where students are not just taught academics in a rigorous form, but it is a school where we can look back on our teachers from a decade ago and give thanks that we had such a loving and caring faculty that pushed us to grow as individuals. Silverdale did not just teach me math and science, but it taught me what a Godly man should look like. It taught me that all human beings are valuable and loved by Christ. It taught me to despise racism, discrimination, and dishonesty wherever I see it.
As a rising young professional, once I start a family, I would want my kids to learn these lessons from a place like Silverdale. Unfortunately, there are not more schools like it, but if true followers of Christ continue to invest in students academically, there will be.
Silverdale Baptist Academy Class of 2016