Belonging at McCallie
On October 16, 2020, McCallie’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a policy statement that clearly defined McCallie’s position on how we as an independent, all-boys, Christian-based secondary school can better serve and support gay and bisexual students. (You can read the statement here)
As part of that statement, the Board empowered the school administration to move forward in developing programs, practices, rules, and guidelines – as well as an overall environment -- that will enhance this policy initiative.
This page will be updated frequently, and we encourage you to visit it often to learn of the latest steps the school is taking. In addition, you also will find links and information that we think will be helpful as we move forward in this ongoing and vital initiative
Update on April 14, 2021
On April 14, Head of School Lee Burns ’87 announced to students and faculty the creation of The Alliance for Belonging, Identity and Brotherhood. The alliance is a forum for students to discuss issues that will help foster a strong school community in which every student can feel that he belongs and is valued and treated with respect, dignity and equality. It is designed to be a place where students can discuss different aspects of their identity, including but not limited to their sexual identity and orientation, and where students can listen to, learn from, and show love and empathy toward their fellow students. All Upper School students are welcome to join the alliance.
Here is the official description of the Alliance for Belonging, Identity and Brotherhood:
Alliance for Belonging, Identity and Brotherhood
The Alliance for Belonging, Identity and Brotherhood is a forum for students to foster a strong school community in which every student can feel that he belongs, is valued and treated with respect, dignity and equality. It is a place where students can discuss different aspects of their identity, including but not limited to their sexual identity and
orientation, and where students can listen to, learn from, and show support and empathy toward their fellow students. All upper school students are welcome to join the alliance. The alliance will have faculty advisors appointed by the Head of School or his designee.
Students who would prefer to explore or discuss identity in a confidential setting instead of in the alliance can let the alliance’s advisors or a member of the Counseling Center know, and one of them will arrange for a meeting(s) with either a McCallie counselor or an off-campus counselor.
Update on April 13, 2021
Throughout the Spring Semester, faculty and staff have had a number of training sessions featuring outside experts who have discussed various aspects of McCallie’s continuing effort to have a more inclusive school community. Among the speakers have been three gay alumni who shared their stories with the faculty (a podcast of that presentation can be found here), as well as presentations by Debra Wilson, President of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (who spoke about terms and issues related to sexual and gender identity and expression in the independent school environment), Quincy Jenkins, Director of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion at Chattanooga State Community College (who spoke on DEI in the community and classrooms), and Thomas Hayes ’88, McCallie’s Dean of Faculty for Recruitment and HR, and General Counsel (who spoke on “Christianity at McCallie as we Consider DEI Work”). Faculty also have had numerous breakout discussion sessions as well as have heard from Head of School Lee Burns ’87.
Tasks forces have continued to meet, discuss goals and objectives and have taken a number of steps relating.
Update on December 10, 2020
Head of School Lee Burns ’87 sent an email to alumni, parents, and friends of McCallie updating them on steps being taken regarding the school’s diversity and inclusion work. He described the scope of the diversity and inclusion work in progress and shared information about faculty and staff workshops and training sessions planned for January of 2021 on racial diversity, systemic racism, and understanding the LGBTQ experience in America. His email is here.
Mr. Burns asked the various task force heads to submit summaries of their activities since the beginning of the school year. At Mr. Burns' instruction, the task force heads will also submit updates every two weeks of their activities which will be posted on the diversity and inclusion page on our website. In this first semester of their work, these task forces have largely focused on developing the trust and climates of their groups so that they can successfully engage in sensitive and difficult conversations together. They have also spent time defining their goals and objectives. All in all, over the course of this first semester, a lot of needs have been identified and many actions have been put into place. Task force summaries of the first semester can be found here.
The Moving Forward Together as Brothers initiative is currently addressing racial bias, prejudice, and inequity in our school community. The Belonging at McCallie initiative is focused on inclusion, particularly as it relates to identity and sexual orientation. In these beginning stages, these two issues have been organized separately but will overlap more and more as we take concrete action steps to more deeply understand the issues surrounding being a learning community that values diversity, respects everyone, and promotes equity and social justice for all. Being separated at this point has allowed Mr. Burns to focus on important work regarding identity and sexual orientation that needed to be done at the board level and to spend time listening to and talking with various student groups like the students on the Heads Council for Diversity, Inclusion, and Brotherhood, the students of the Black Student Union, and conversations with gay and bisexual students.
Highlights from work in progress include:
Faculty training sessions planned for early January on systemic racism and recognizing implicit biases as well as understanding the LGBTQ experience
A program called VOICE that enables students to share their stories, thoughts, ideas, and opinions on the topics of diversity and inclusion and post them for other students and faculty to read has been started
Five students attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in early December sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and three faculty members attended the NAIS People of Color Conference. This group is slated to meet with Mr. Burns to discuss the student training that will happen in the early spring
A comprehensive audit of how McCallie is perceived by diverse prospective students before deciding to apply and once they are in the admission process is underway
A review of the equitable and strategic application of financial aid to provide access to McCallie by diverse students is in process
A review of our current hiring practices for bias as well as research into new sources of recruiting diverse faculty and staff is in process
Focusing on the two primary entry grades, (6 and 9), a “foundations” course is being developed to create understanding of equity and social justice issues
Middle School students will partner with students from Chattanooga Preparatory Charter School for Boys in a character and leadership building program that was developed by Bob Eager ’63 in March
A student mentor program for current Black students by Black alumni will launch in January
See full task force summaries here.
Update on November 5, 2020
Alumni Conference Call -- Head of School Lee Burns on Wednesday, November 4, conducted a Zoom conference call with a group of gay alumni, who shared stories, perspectives, and ideas on how the school can move forward in its “Belonging At McCallie” initiative. Mr. Burns described the conversation as helpful and stressed that he hopes it is one of many such discussions with alumni that will be held throughout this school year.
Middle School Talk – On November 5, Mr. Burns spoke to Middle School students on the topic of inclusion and brotherhood. This was a follow-up to the talk he gave on October 27 to Upper School students. He delivered two age-appropriate talks at the Middle School, one to sixth and seventh graders and another to eighth graders.
Update on October 30, 2020
McCallie works with GLSEN for faculty training – McCallie has engaged in faculty, staff and administrative training and conversations with the Tennessee chapter of GLSEN, a national non-profit organization devoted to providing research and training to the K-12 education community on LGBTQ issues.
In the past two weeks, GLSEN has provided training to two faculty groups: a pilot/core group of about 20 faculty and staff who can help lead in the in the Belonging At McCallie initiative, and the Head of School Council, a group of about 40 individuals composed of department heads, deans, directors, support faculty/counselors, and administrators. Together, these two groups represent over 50 individuals who have begun the training. Two additional training sessions are scheduled for early November.
Dean of Faculty and Curriculum Sumner McCallie, who is coordinating the training sessions with GLSEN, said these first rounds of training are concentrating on ways to understand and support students who are gay, bisexual and/or wrestling with the challenges of sexual orientation or identity, as well as ways faculty should communicate with students who talk to them about sexual identity/orientation issues.
Training from GLSEN will continue and may be expanded to other faculty/staff. Head of School Lee Burns ’87 said that McCallie will use the valuable resources and expertise of GLSEN, as well as those of other outside professionals, through the year and beyond. (While McCallie works with various individuals and groups, the school does not necessarily endorse all that such individuals/groups may have written or said.)
Head of School Lee Burns Speaks to Upper School Students/Faculty – On October 27, Mr. Burns spoke to a special convocation of Upper School students and faculty to discuss the Diversity, Inclusion, and Brotherhood initiative. Text for his talk can be found here and the video here. He plans a similar talk, though tailored to younger students, in the coming days to Middle School students.
In his talk, Mr. Burns emphasized the school’s mission of serving, loving and supporting all boys and told the students that in the past there had been times when some students, in particular gay and bisexual students, had not been treated with the dignity, equality, and brotherhood that are generally emblematic of McCallie. He asked the students to join with the faculty this year and beyond to make sure no student feels marginalized, and he emphasized that bullying and harassment – in any form – will not be tolerated. He stated there will be new and different action steps and approaches in the coming weeks and months.
Council on Diversity, Inclusion, and Brotherhood Formed – Mr. Burns has announced the formation of a group of students, to be known as the Council on Diversity, Inclusion, and Brotherhood, that will meet with him on a regular basis to discuss ideas on how the school can move forward in enhancing a school community in which every boy feels seen, heard, loved, respected and treated with dignity and equality.
Mr. Burns and Dean of Community and Brotherhood Ricky Thomas have met with some gay and bisexual students to hear their perspectives, ideas and hopes. Additional meetings are planned for early November.
Discussions with Gay Alumni – During the week of November 1, Mr. Burns will hold a Zoom conference call with select gay alumni who can share their stories, experiences and ideas with the school.
Other Developments - Various ideas and practices are under consideration. Be sure to check this site regularly for updates.