St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis promotes “affinity groups” for students on its website. Affinity groups are groups that segregate people based on their personal identity, including race and sexual orientation. Race-based affinity groups the school promotes are the “Asian Student Association,” “Black Student Alliance,” and “Middle Eastern/North African Student Association.” Despite a history of being a school connected to religious institutions, one affinity group the school promotes is the “Gender and Sexuality Alliance.”
The school’s website promotes the affinity groups on a page titled “You Belong Here.” The page appears to be a rebranded diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative. The page promotes a “Director of Belonging” and “inclusiveness.” The page also promotes a “Fast Belonging Committee” that is a group of administration officers and staff who appear to make decisions pushing “diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging” within the school.
The page additionally links to a statement from the school titled “Statement on Belonging” that is dated September 2019. The statement explains there is a “Belonging Task Force of the Board of Trustees” that “facilitates conversations and initiatives around the areas of community, curriculum, and faculty recruitment and retention.” The statement additionally explains:
St. Mary’s Episcopal School is committed to creating, maintaining, and nurturing a diverse and inclusive educational environment. Students, families, alumnae, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences collaborate in the often challenging and courageous work of understanding and respecting each other.
The school has reading lists for students in each grade through the eighth grade posted online. Students in seventh grade must choose two books from a list to read from during the summer. One book on the list is Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by known political activists Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. The book is known to promote racial equity and tenets of Critical Race Theory as ways to deal with perceived oppression. The list also features another book from Jason Reynolds titled The Boy in the Black Suit.