Students at one of the oldest and most prestigious boys schools in the United States could soon face expulsion for a single "misplaced" joke, according to a draft "anti-bias" policy circulating among school administrators and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
St. Albans, whose alumni include vice presidents and two current U.S. senators, is considering a crackdown on "harmful" speech that prioritizes the impact of the speech rather than the intent of the speaker.
"It is the impact of hate speech, rather than the intent of those perpetrating it, that is of utmost importance," the draft policy states. As such, boys could be expelled "even in the case of a single expression, act, or gesture"—including "misplaced humor," which the policy says "should be reported immediately to the student’s adviser."
Reporting infractions would fall to students, teachers, and parents. "We also expect that anyone, whether student, faculty, staff, or family member, who witnesses, or has knowledge of an incident of hate speech, will report the incident to the appropriate individual," the draft policy reads, clarifying that nobody will be punished for making "a good faith report."
St. Albans did not respond to a request for comment about why it would take the "good faith" of those reporting misdeeds into consideration but not the intent of the alleged perpetrators.
It’s unclear whether the policy has formally gone into effect or is still subject to revision. But the language appears to have been more than a year in the making. In July 2020, the school publicly committed to "developing a new policy for inclusion" that "specifically addresses racial hate speech" and outlines a process for "investigating and eradicating such behavior."
Speech codes are increasingly de rigueur at elite private schools like St. Albans, where an ever-expanding crop of diversity professionals has institutionalized an ever-expanding definition of "hate." That definition is enforced by bias reporting systems—often created in response to diversity audits—that encourage students to flag insensitive speech for school administrators. At St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts, for example, students can report their peers anonymously via an online form, set up in 2020 as part of the school’s "antiracist action plan."
Now, even the most old-fashioned of these schools are becoming fluent in the language of left-wing identity politics. St. Albans—which refers to Hispanic students as "Latinx," has replaced Columbus Day with "Indigenous People’s Day," sponsors an "Alliance of White Antiracists," and costs over $50,000 a year—is often seen as more conservative than its co-ed counterparts. Boys must wear formal attire and attend weekly Anglican chapels, whose liturgy one alum described as "traditional." Lunch is served family-style in a 100-year-old dining hall called "the Refectory," which the school rents out for private dinners.
Such trappings have proven no match for the ideological tsunami pummeling private education.
"St. Albans used to have a simple honor code: Don’t lie, cheat, or steal," an alumnus of the school told the Free Beacon. "Everything else was adjudicated human-to-human. Now boys are being policed for humor and innocuous comments are subject to the highest form of punishment."
That punishment will presumably be doled out by the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee, which enlists 21 teachers and administrators. The committee has injected "antiracism" into nearly every facet of school life. In June 2020, all faculty and staff were required to read Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, and that September all middle and high school students read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. St. Albans also curates an extensive list of "resources," including Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and an introductory textbook on critical race theory.
This transformation has been encouraged by the accreditation bureaucracy to which the elite boys school belongs. St. Albans is a member of the Association of Independent Maryland and D.C. Schools, which expects that "diversity practice" be "an organic part of every area of school life." The Association of Independent Maryland and D.C. Schools, in turn, is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, which expects all of its "approved accreditors" to mandate DEI programming.
Under those pressures, the best private schools in the nation’s capitol have all come to resemble each other. Even Landon, perhaps the most conservative boys school in the D.C. area, hired a diversity consultant last year to "evaluate the lived experience of the Landon program." As part of that evaluation, students were asked to join focus groups "based on how one identifies"—including, at the all-boys school, gender identity.