June 9, 2020
To the Valley Christian Schools Alumni and Community,
I have received and read a sobering letter from many alumni on the subject of racial prejudice at Valley Christian Schools. Many believe VCS has failed its calling as a Christian school with empathy and equity for all. Others provided personal testimonials of alleged racial discrimination or bigotry during their school experience; these stories were especially painful to read. Your comments have prompted a great deal of personal reflection, introspection, prayer, and a renewed commitment to action.
I would like to begin by saying that racial discrimination, harassment, and injustice cannot and will not be tolerated at VCS. No one should have to experience the pain of such discrimination. I apologize to any individual who feels that I and/or VCS did not stand up for their God-given humanity during their time at VCS. I commend you for speaking out and promise that your words have been, and continue to be, heard. And while I reaffirm the vital principle that racial injustice of any kind is incompatible with our Christian faith and the Christ-centered community we seek to build at VCS, it is clear that we need to do more. As such, we are increasing our focus to stand with all people to eradicate racial injustice and all those who are called to peaceably bring about God’s mercy on Earth and will be initiating our own specific measures to support this cause.
I owe a particular apology to those who have rightfully pointed out the insensitivity of a passage in one of my books, which appeared to minimize the horrors of slavery. It was an abhorrent practice whose consequences are still with us today. Slavery is always evil. I am ashamed of what my words seem to convey, as that was not my intent. I am deeply sorry for this lapse in judgment. I am listening and learning and have removed the book from the marketplace.
While the efforts VCS has made to heal our community are sincere, I fully acknowledge that further change must take place to honor our Lord Jesus. What VCS has accomplished thus far are essential steps in a much longer, never-ending journey to love everyone more like Jesus, a passage we will take together as a VCS community with God’s guidance and by His grace.
For example, VCS formed a Diversity and Equity Inclusion Committee (DEIC) last year to specifically begin the work of proactively addressing racial disparity. In January of this year, and up to the time leading to the COVID-19 campus lockdown, the DEIC and the VCS High School started working on curriculum improvements to advance racial justice and incorporate the works and perspective of minority authors. You can learn more about these and other initiatives at one of a series of town halls we are inviting you to join over the upcoming weeks.
Despite these efforts, the current events offer an opportunity for VCS to aggressively assess how we can better serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. Our heart is to bring racial reconciliation and healing to our community and nation. We can move in this direction through difficult but necessary conversations, prayer, and action to love one another as Jesus taught.
We are facing a long journey, but one we are committed to and one that starts with us taking the following immediate steps:
- Integrate racial equity and justice education in the curriculum and co-curricular activities;
- Extend unconscious bias training to all teachers, administrators, school leaders, and staff;
- Engage with speakers, specifically those from diverse backgrounds, to inform students how to understand and avoid insensitive actions as perceived differently by varied ethnic and cultural groups;
- Reinforce our anti-harassment standards and associated consequences for violations to students, faculty, and staff;
- Embed more cultural competency, training, and education, for faculty, staff and students participating in our Warriors Advancing the Lord’s Kingdom (WALK) missions program;
- Publish an alumni newsletter consistently to share transparency on our data and work in this regard;
- Host virtual town halls so we can listen and better understand what our students, parents, and alumni have to say; and,
- Invest in additional resources to seek greater diversity in our applicant pools for admissions as well as faculty and staff positions.
These actions are the start, not the end, of a larger conversation about fairness and equality at VCS, especially for communities of color. Please know that I am committed to leading that discussion, actively listening, and taking action. Your continued input is vital as we seek to build a VCS community more rooted than ever in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In the coming weeks, I will be speaking and praying with VCS students, parents, staff, and alumni on how we will better accomplish our mission to provide a nurturing environment for spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth - especially in the context of racial justice. To foster this critical dialogue, we will be hosting virtual town halls. We will be limiting each town hall to approximately 20-25 attendees to facilitate in-depth conversations where everyone who participates has the opportunity to be heard. We are committed to hosting as many of these meetings as necessary. If you would like to participate, please contact us at DEIC@VCS.net, and we will send you the proposed dates and times for these meetings as well as keep you updated on our commitments detailed above.
We look forward to engaging in more meaningful, personal interactions and continuing this important conversation in the weeks and months ahead.
Clifford E. Daugherty, EdD