The headmaster of an elite New York private school resigned after 16 years following parental pushback over the school’s embrace of liberal politics.
Dalton School headmaster Jim Best announced that he was leaving the K-12 school at the end of the 2020-21 school year. In his resignation letter, Best touted the school’s “ambitious” diversity and equity goals, according to the New York Post.
“[Dalton is] attracting and supporting a historically diverse student body, assembling a historically diverse faculty, staff, and Leadership Team; reenvisioning and reinvigorating curricula in science, math, world and classical languages, physical education and athletics; advancing an ambitious Diversity, Equity & Inclusion mission.”
Tensions at the Dalton School began in December when the school’s faculty issued an “anti-racism” manifesto that demanded the school hire 12 diversity officers and review the curriculum to reflect social justice priorities.
In January, an anonymous group of parents penned a letter objecting to the school’s embrace of race-based curriculum. The parents called the new curriculum “wildly inappropriate.”
“Every class this year has had an obsessive focus on race and identity, ‘racist cop’ reenactments in science, ‘de-centering whiteness’ in art class, learning about white supremacy and sexuality in health class,” the letter reads. “Wildly inappropriate, many of these classes feel more akin to a Zoom corporate sensitivity-training than to Dalton’s intellectually engaging curriculum.”
Dalton’s Head of Diversity, Domonic Rollins, left the school in February following the parent backlash.
Best’s resignation comes at the same time a father at the Brearley School — an equally prestigious all-girls private school on the Upper East Side — penned a letter decrying the school’s embrace of “anti-racism.”
The letter was written by Andrew Gutmann and initially published in journalist Bari Weiss’s “Common Sense” Substack letter. Gutmann explained in 1,700 words why he was pulling his daughter, who had been enrolled since kindergarten, from the school.
“If Brearleys’ administration was truly concerned about so-called ‘equity,’ it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets,” Gutmann wrote. “If the administration was genuinely serious about ‘diversity,’ it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.”
Following Gutmann’s letter, Brearley’s head of school Jane Fried called the letter “deeply offensive and harmful.” She condemned Gutmann for sending his thoughts to the student body alongside the administration.
“This afternoon, I and others who work closely with Upper School students met with more than one hundred of them, many of whom told us that they felt frightened and intimidated by the letter and the fact that it was sent directly to our homes,” Fried wrote. “Our students noted that as this letter, which denies the presence of systemic racism, crossed their doorways, the evidence of ongoing racism — systemic or otherwise — is daily present in our headlines.”