Parents of students at a Catholic school in the San Francisco Bay area are protesting the board’s decision to remove and relocate more than 160 statues of Jesus, Mary and historic church figures from the campus in an effort to make the school more “inclusive.”
Shannon Fitzpatrick, who has an 8-year-old son at San Domenico School in San Anselmo told the local Marin Independent Journal that “articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs.”
She said that during the time of her family’s association with the K-12 independent school, “the word ‘Catholic’ has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be ‘less Catholic,’ and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic.”
The chair of the school’s board of trustees, Amy Skewes-Cox, explained to the local paper that the move was made to help non-Christian students feel more welcome.
“If you walk on the campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of St. Dominic or St. Francis, it could be alienating for that other religion, and we didn’t want to further that feeling,” she said.
The removal of a statue of Mary and the Christ child from the school’s center courtyard was especially troubling to parents.
Fitzpatrick said other families share her concern.
“Many parents feel if the school is heading in a different direction then the San Domenico community should have been notified before the signing of the enrollment for the following year,” she said.
Another parent, Cheryl Newell, told the Independent Journal the school is “trying to be something for everyone, and they’re making no one happy.”
Skewes-Cox told the Marin County paper the relocation and removal of some of the school’s 180 religious statues was “completely in compliance” with a new strategic plan approved unanimously last year by the board and the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael.
She said at least 18 remain, including a statue of St. Dominic at the center of the campus.
The trustees’ director insisted that while the removal coincides with the removal of Confederate statues across the United States, the issues are “totally different” and have “absolutely no connection other than it is change, and people have a hard time with change.”
In 2006, WND reported a cross in the chapel at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, was removed to make the chapel “a faith-specific space, and to make it more welcoming to students, faculty, staff and visitors of all faiths.”
San Domenico, founded by the Dominican Sisters in 1850 as an independent, Catholic school, meaning its not owned by a religious order, has 660 students, including 98 from foreign nations. Among the religions they represent are Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
Instead of teaching Catholic theology, the school provides instruction in world religions and philosophy.
The head of the school, Cecily Stock, told the Independent Journal the school’s approach is “really about empowering each student and giving them the information so they can discover their own purpose, their own truth.”
Mirza Khan, the school’s director of philosophy, ethics and world religions, told the paper the Dominican teaching philosophy “is not to teach there is only one truth.”
“It is to foster conversation, to intentionally invite in participants that have different perspectives in a very open-ended process of philosophical and spiritual inquiry. That has been a long-standing part of the Dominican tradition.”