The Westminster Schools in Atlanta uses its largest-in-the-nation endowment for $5 million ‘anti-racism’ pledge
In June 2020, The Westminster Schools, an elite Atlanta K-12 prep school, pledged $5 million from its endowment for “anti-racism,” leaving parents stunned but garnering few headlines. In contrast, two months later, in August 2020, when Twitter founder Jack Dorsey pledged $10 million to Ibram X. Kendi’s “anti-racism” effort at Boston University, much criticism followed.
Founded in 1951 as a reorganization of Atlanta’s North Avenue Presbyterian School, Westminster gets its plural name from its merger in 1953 with Washington Seminary, founded by relatives of George Washington. The school boasts an endowment of about $200 million, the largest endowment of any non-boarding school in the United States. In a crowded field of elite Atlanta prep schools, it is consistently ranked the best private K-12 school in Georgia.
According to documents reviewed by Parents Defending Education, the school’s board of trustees had unanimously decided on June 17, 2020, to pledge $5 million to “provide immediate permanent resources to support efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Westminster community.”
The school said it would fund “programming, professional development and faculty support” for the “anti-racism” work.
The “Woke Grooming Process” isn’t unique to Westminster. The killing of George Floyd set many private schools down this path. But Westminster’s endowment meant it has been able to do more than most.
On May 31, 2020, Keith Evans, the president of Westminster, wrote a letter to the Westminster community that the “protests that have followed against racial injustices in our country and here in Atlanta have been both courageous and distressing.”
In a June 6, 2020, letter to the Westminster community, Evans wrote that “our pledge calls us to resist passivity and take action in the face of ‘complex and systemic’ issues of racism whether in our nation or on our campus” and invited the community to participate in “listening sessions” on June 11, 12 and 16.
Days later, Westminster posted a tweet thanking its students and faculty for “marching in peaceful protests.”
Marjorie Mitchell, Westminster’s director of admissions and an alumna of the school in the class of 1982, facilitated community “conversations.” At one session, Upper School Equity and Inclusion Programs Coordinator Judy Osborne said:
“Students at Westminster and around the nation aren’t simply looking for more Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives as check-offs. We’ve had plenty of those for years.”
“What we heard loud and clear from young people, Black students specifically, is a desire for significant curricular and cultural shifts that more accurately reflect the diversity and complexity of the American experience.”
In a June 24, 2020, letter to the Westminster community, the board of trustees’ chairman, Joel Murphy, who graduated from the school in the Class of 1976, and school president, Keith Evan, announced “action steps” including: expand and deepen “anti-racism education” and “cultural competency” development for students, faculty, staff, administration, the Board of Trustees, and parents. They also stipulated integrating the work into the “permanent parts of the curriculum and program of Westminster.”
The letter announced the Board of Trustees’ unanimous decision to designate the $5 million endowed fund to “provide immediate permanent resources to support these initiatives.”
Westminster had total revenues of $77.5 million and total assets of $505.7 million, according to its 2019 IRS 990 tax filing. The school’s mission is to be a “Christian, independent day school for boys and girls, which seeks to develop the whole person for college and for life through excellent education.”
The Westminster Schools is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools and is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools.
Westminster’s diversity, equity and inclusion outside consultants
According to the school’s website, Westminster has engaged the following outside consultants for diversity, equity and inclusion work:
- Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of “Can We Talk About Race?”
- Ali Michael of The Race Institute for K-12 Educators
- Howard Stevenson of The Racial Empowerment Collaberative
The Jane Group lists Westminster as a client.
Westminster’s in-house diversity, equity and inclusion team
In 2020, Westminster established a team of eight diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinators.
Westminster’s strategic plan
Westminster’s professional development
Westminster’s affinity groups
According to the school’s website, Westminster uses controversial curriculum from “Courageous Conversations,” CASEL, ADL’s “Fighting Hate for Good,” and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Lower school students attend two class periods of “diversity, equity and inclusion learning” and one class period of “social emotional learning SEL” in a typical seven-day rotation.”
Westminster’s enrollment agreement
According to parents who have spoken with Parents Defending Education, many Westminster parents are hesitant to voice their concerns due to the terms and conditions of the school’s enrollment agreement. Still, some are seeking changes to the contract.
The contract states (page 2, point a):
“A positive and constructive working relationship between The School and the student’s family is essential to the mission of Westminster. The School reserves the right not to continue enrollment or not to re-enroll a student if The School concludes that the actions of a student, parent, or guardian make a positive and constructive relationship impracticable.”
Westminster parents raise concerns
According to Westminster parents, about 100 parents, alumni and donors have been raising concerns about the changes that have taken place at Westminster since the spring of 2020. They say that so far their concerns have been dismissed. Parents say they’ve been told by administrators that “perhaps this isn’t the school for you.”
This letter from an alumnus and past parent written to Westminster President Keith Evans explains the group’s concerns:
On Feb. 1, 2022, a group of concerned Westminster parents launched the website “Wokeminster” to share their concerns and organize their efforts. Their mission statement is to “expose the spiritual decay and misguided efforts” at the school. Parents are seeking that the school return to its founding principles, provide more transparency and eliminate age-inappropriate discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation.
In an email sent on Feb. 8, 2022, to Westminster parents, Westminster President Keith Evans called the website “divisive” and “misleading.” He said the school still has “work to do” and will “carry on.” He signed his email “onward.”
But the Westminster parents we’ve spoken with have real concerns. As one explained:
“We simply want Westminster to return to its founding principles of providing a classic Christian education with a focus on excellence. This is what we were promised by the Administration and codified in the school’s charter. It can and should be done in an inclusive, transparent and tolerant way without retaliation against parents who want to have equal treatment for our children and protect them from age-inappropriate or divisive discussions on critical theory, gender identity and sexualization. Dr. Pressly would find that this is a perfectly reasonable request for kids in their formative years.”