In response to the events of 2020 and reports of racial discrimination at Saint John’s via the Instagram page @BlackatSJC, Mr. Themistos spoke about what the administration thought about such reports, how they’ve responded, and future plans to limit racial discrimination at St. John’s.
The Instagram page @BlackatSJC was anonymously created last summer, amid continued instances of police brutality and killings of unarmed black people which empowered thousands of young activists to call for institutions throughout the country to address issues of racism in their culture, identity, and the institutions themselves. St. John’s College High School is currently assessing and addressing how they can grow and improve in diversity and inclusion in the wake of these events.
Mr. Themistos said he had every post saved on his computer. When asked whether he had heard about racial discrimination in school prior to last summer, he responded resolutely: “Nearly all of the situations present were not brought to us to address.”
The stories, which are anonymously shared via Google Form range in content and culprit, yet each one recounts an incident where a student either experienced racism themselves, or witnessed another student experience racism. Three of the areas that are addressed are dress code, taking racism seriously, and a lack of diversity in the curriculum.
Mr. Themistos’ summarized the plans to address these issues at St. John’s, “Curriculum development, creating educational opportunities for faculty and students to understand life journeys of everyone, and creating the Allies Program for safe spaces. This has been important to me and will continue to be important to me,” Mr. Themistos said.
The St. Johns administration has plans to address these issues with race relations in the school community. These plans focus on creating dialogue and creating safe spaces for students to share their experiences. The faculty was trained this year on restorative practices and facilitating community circles. This training will help faculty connect to students, help individuals through situations when harm has been done, and help to create more open communication overall.
He made it clear that he is devoted to making a way for students to feel comfortable reaching out to the administration, which is why an allies program is being created. These “allies” will be designated staff members who students could reach out to and who will listen and strive to understand their experience to help them through it.
St. John’s also plans to incorporate more diversity to the curriculum. In July, curriculum changes were set in action. Mr. Themistos described that changes are coming first to three specific areas of study, “Students will encounter a scaffolded experiences in Hebrew Scripture, English 10 and US History as they move through 9th, 10th, and 11th grades. Work is being done now to ensure that, in the near future, all classes will reflect a more inclusive experience. Our goal is that our students see themselves in their coursework, and they learn from the experiences of those who may be different from them through more development around writing assignments to create a more inclusive learning experience in all three departments,” Themistos said.
However, this is just the start. St. Johns will continue to grow and learn to accommodate all students’ needs. The administration strives to fulfill the Lasallian and empathetic values they preach, according to Mr. Themistos.