Everyone seems to be pulling down and hauling off monuments these days. From Confederate symbols to Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant, all manner of statues and icons are being covered up or dragged off to be hidden away from the eyes of the easily offended. But out in California one private school has adopted the policy in a different way. The San Domenico School in San Anselmo, California (which is a private Catholic school by the way) raised the ire of some parents and students when they decided to remove some Catholic statuary from the school grounds.
In case you were wondering if that was a typo, it wasn’t. And their reasons for doing it had nothing to do with the Confederacy (obviously) but they were worried about offending particular groups of people. (Fox News)
A California independent school is facing a backlash from parents after officials removed and relocated some of the Catholic statues on its campus over concerns that they were “alienating” prospective students.
The head of the San Domenico School in San Anselmo said parents of some prospective students who visited the campus – which was founded in 1850 and serves 671 students grades K-12 — expressed concern about the religious figures, according to the Marin Independent Journal.
“If you walk on the campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of St. Dominic or St. Francis, it could be alienating for that other religion, and we didn’t want to further that feeling,” Cecily Stock said.
As noted above, the story came from the Marin Independent Journal. They provide the backstory which is a tale of enrollment and tuition more than religion or ideology. One parent, Shannon Fitzpatrick, sent a letter to the school listing a series of changes which had been implemented long before the statues were removed, all of which seemed to water down the original foundation of the institution.
“Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs,” wrote Fitzpatrick, whose 8-year-old son attends the school.
She added, “In our time here, the word ‘Catholic’ has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be ‘less Catholic,’ and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic.”
A couple of points to make here. First of all, this is a private school and providing they remain within the boundaries of the law, what they choose to do with their printed material and decorations around the campus is strictly between them and the families who send their children there. No external intervention is required.
With that said, the parents clearly have a several good points on their side. They signed up to send their kids to a Catholic school and presumably pretty much all of them did so for a reason. And they have standing to make their expectations known to the school officials, particularly when you find out that they are shelling out $29,850 for a single year’s tuition to go to kindergarten. If they are looking for an environment for their children which provides not only a quality education, but an atmosphere of faith, it seems that they have the right to complain.
The other question which I would put to the administrators has to do with their marketing plan. I’m not sure how many students they wind up getting who fall into the “other” category in terms of religion, but how many non-Catholics are showing up to pay that kind of money to attend a Catholic school? If you show up for class on the first day and are offended at seeing a statue of the Virgin Mary it seems to me that you didn’t put very much thought into your school choice.
If the school is in such dire financial straits that they need to attract non-Catholic students, it might be time to stop calling it a Catholic school. But at that point it sounds as if you’re going to drive away a significant portion of your existing base of families. An unwise move no matter how you juggle the explanations.