Letter from a Concerned Student
“There are many Packer students, just like me, who are desperate for the bullying and belittlement of Republican students at Packer to end,” wrote a conservative Packer student in an anonymous letter to Head of School Bruce Dennis.
The week of Nov. 14, this letter was placed on Dr. Dennis’s chair in his office. The small piece of paper expressed the student’s great fear of being physically and emotionally harmed by liberal students who do not agree with how he or she affiliated themselves politically.
The student who wrote the letter shared that he or she felt bullied by the liberal community at Packer and that other students had threatened them, saying they would “push [the anonymous conservative student] down the stairs.”
The letter tested Packer’s core values of inclusivity, diversity, and a strong sense of community, yet its anonymity contradicted Packer’s mission to speak with confidence. Upon hearing about the letter and its contents, students and faculty were challenged to think about Packer as a community that creates comfortable spaces for everyone.
Packer prides itself on being an open community that hosts all kinds of people, welcoming all ideas and all people, but according to the letter, a privileged student in a school filled with minorities, 32% of which identifiy as students of color, happens to feel like an even smaller minority among them.
“In the process of trying to create a safe space for students who were not happy with the results of our country’s election, Packer has created a toxic environment of persecution for those that were,” the anonymous student wrote.
In many ways, the jarring words of this student may have helped the community recognize how stifling a majority can be. It is an issue that many students, even before the election, were aware of. Many students at Packer are considered a minority outside of the school, but inside Packer, it is the conservative students who are the minority.
“When you are a conservative, or when you’re sharing your opinion you have to acknowledge the fact that there are gonna be people that disagree with you and you can’t expect to be able to share your opinion that some people feel hurt by, or some people disagree with, and not have any sort of push back,” said Stella Hackett (‘17).
Dr. Dennis and Head of Upper School Jose De Jesus addressed the Upper School during Graderoom in an effort to confront students and prompt a conversation about what was brought up in the letter. Both teachers expressed sympathy for the student, and how the bullying, whether or not the bullying in the letter was true or not, would be tolerated in any form in our community.
“Diversity isn’t just about the color of people’s skin, or the amount of money their family makes, or about the structure of their family. It’s also about political beliefs and values, and people have different values,” said Dr. Dennis.
Moving forward, Dr. Dennis has made it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated, and that he believes that it does not represent the institution that Packer is, nor the institution that it is striving to be.
“I was disappointed in the incident, but there are things that happen every day that disappoint me in microcosm, but it doesn’t change my feeling about the institution,” said Dr. Dennis.
Many students were disappointed with the results of the election. Emotions ran high post-results, and many students felt animosity towards the party they opposed.
“It’s touchy for this, especially because we’re talking about this election. I think that it’s hard because I know people who are of opposing beliefs. But in this particular case, those beliefs harm other people,” said Delilah Righter (‘17).
Other students expressed similar opinions to Dr. Dennis, feeling sympathy for the student and disgust towards the people who threatened the student.
“I just feel disgusted that someone would say that they’d push that person down the stairs, because that’s creating so much violence, and just because someone disagrees with you, that’s no reason to physically hurt them,” said Jack Mason (‘19).
There is no way to test whether the contents of the letter are true, so we do not know if the student was actually threatened. Even without knowing if the letter was true, most people agreed that bullying is not acceptable, whether it is towards a majority or minority.