A Change.org petition has garnered more than 3,000 signatures calling for Saint Louis Catholic High School to “stop racism and discrimination.” The petition, started by Saint Louis Alumni for Change, calls for the private high school to take an active stance against racism through its policies, curriculum and by embracing the Christian call to “love thy neighbor.”
“We do not want to live in a world where Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is more vocal about injustice than our alma mater,” the petition reads.
Danny Garrett, a SLC 2007 alumni, said many of the individuals who are active in the Alumni for Change group experienced instances of racism during their time at school. Despite their experience, he said, the group still respects the high school and the petition seeks to create a better outcome for current and future minority students.
“We do want to make sure to keep this as positive as possible. What we don’t want to happen is people thinking that we hate the school,” he said. “The main issue is to make sure the school gets better with these types of issues of racial injustice.”
The petition identifies 14 action steps that organizers believe will better position the school to exemplify Pope Francis’ call to “speak out against injustice.”
“We do not know what to make of the fact that SLC refuses to state plainly that Black Lives Matter — a statement so benign and so obviously true that its omission from your social media platforms speaks volumes,” the petition reads. “First and foremost, we are asking every one of you to break your silence and take a stand for what is morally correct in accordance with your Catholic faith.”
In addition to breaking its silence with a formal statement condemning the murder of George Floyd and all victims of police brutality, the petition requests the school adopt a zero tolerance policy on overt and/or covert racist actions, add literature by Black, indigenous and people of color to its curriculum, conduct implicit and explicit bias training for teachers and actively work towards diversifying the student population.
“How did the school end up being over 80 percent white? Very specific historical issues and events that made that happen. You kind of have to look within yourself and say, ‘OK, I have a responsibility to recognize that and do what’s in my power to try to reverse that as much as possible,’” Garrett said.
At the time of the interview Garrett said the group had not corresponded with Saint Louis regarding the petition’s request.
Mia Orgeron, principal, said monthly listening sessions had been held throughout the past year to receive community input regarding the school’s operation.
“No previous communication, complaints or concerns were voiced before receiving a copy of the petition via email,” she said.
Regarding the points outlined in the petition, Orgeron said, “We believe and teach that Jesus Christ is the remedy for the sin of racism.” Yearly evaluations are done of all school policies and practices considering the teachings of Jesus Christ and the traditions of the Catholic church, she said.
“Racism is evil. It fails to recognize the equal dignity of every human person. We teach our students that racism is grievously sinful and must be eradicated from our hearts.”
Regarding the call for greater emphasis on social justice education, Orgeron said the school’s focus on Christlike character naturally lends itself towards the development of a more just society.
“We believe we help the progress of social justice when we form our students to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we do that well, then real social justice is achieved.”
Despite the two groups not meeting yet, Orgeron said, “With the input of the stakeholders and Advisory Council, we strive to fulfill the mission entrusted to us. This includes creating an environment where every person is treated in accordance with their God-given dignity.”