Roy Exum: Harpeth Hall Struggles With The ‘Woke’

Thursday, August 18, 2022 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The Harpeth Hall School in Nashville has long been regarded as one of the top all-girls prep schools in the South. Her alumnae are fiercely loyal, her students are proud, and her traditions legend. But suddenly the “progressives” have bared their souls and – of all things in this day and age -- invited boys who think they are girls to apply to the hallowed private school.

It seems last week the school’s board quietly adopted policies laid out in what it calls its Gender Diversity Philosophy as some other “woke” and liberal schools have done. A statement read, “Harpeth Hall is a girls school. The school culture is unique and distinctly about girls, complete with the use of references to students as girls and young women and the collective use of female pronouns,” said that document, as reported at the time by The Tennessee Star last week.

“Any student who identifies as a girl may apply to our school. Students who join and remain at Harpeth Hall do so because our mission as a school for girls resonates with them.”

Last night the first of two hurriedly-called meetings was convened and suffice it to say that the Gender Diversity Philosophy was challenged by a petition bearing over 1,000 signatures, asking the school to reconsider. To say the alumnae are roused is an understatement. Here’s what the petition stated:

* * *

A PETITION AT THE HARPETH HALL SCHOOL

Dear Mrs. Jess Hill (Head of School) and Harpeth Hall Board of Trust,

We are writing to you today on behalf of a significant number of current parents, former parents, and alumnae. The past week has been challenging for everyone, regardless of viewpoint. One thing on which we all agree is that, you, the faculty and the board, care deeply about our girls and Harpeth Hall as an institution. With that in mind, nothing can surpass a parent’s love and concern for a daughter.

Adopting a policy that invites application to Harpeth Hall by anyone other than females is a critical change in the structure of the school, and by extension, has a major impact on our daughters.

We understand deeply the need for each and every child to be supported and to find the best environment for each stage of their development. We also admire every parent that seeks to find the very best environment for their unique child. Nashville presents many options, including schools spread across every social and educational dimension – who accept and develop children without consideration of sex/gender.

But we chose Harpeth Hall intentionally because of its educational excellence, its many traditions, and, yes, its focus on girls. As much as many see issues of sex/gender as very complex, there is also a simple approach for our school: that Harpeth Hall selects and develops girls across a wide spectrum of backgrounds, but only girls, girls at birth who also identify as girls today.

We feel strongly that this is ideal for our daughters and granddaughters, and will allow them to develop and grow, compete, and thrive without the distractions and complexities of boys, born or declared, in the classroom, and on the fields and stages.

A significant number of families and donors in the Harpeth Hall community, including those copied on this message, feel that the administration and board at Harpeth Hall have failed to include us in the process of considering such major change. Harpeth Hall’s reputation is damaged and we would all like to be part of the process of fixing it.

We respectfully request a live, open-forum town hall, with all school administrators, committee members, and board members involved in the creation and adoption of this policy.

Given recent damage to the Harpeth Hall brand nationally and internationally, the matter is urgent. We submit the following dates and times to you to be held in Harpeth Hall’s main gym with no media, crisis management, or PR teams present:

* -- Wednesday, 8/17 at 7:00pm and Thursday, 8/18 at 7:00pm

On behalf of all Harpeth Hall community members that have consented to CC on this message, we thank you for your consideration as we seek to restore trust in The Harpeth Hall School.

* * *

Did you get that? “Given recent damage to the Harpeth Hall brand nationally and internationally, the matter is urgent.”

You betcha’ it is, and with McCallie (all boys) and Girls Preparatory School (all girls) in Chattanooga watching closely as the drama unfolds, there seems to be no easy solution.

royexum@aol.com


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