The Path is Paved With Facebook Posts: 36 Hours Later

MSCsignThis is a rather long post, but I feel that it is important.  Included you will find my reflection on the last 36 hours of our organizing around Mount St. Charles’ policy regarding Transgender Students.  I have also included the text of both statements Mount St. Charles made yesterday, as well as links to various media outlets carrying the story.  The piece concludes with a copy of our press release.

The group of alumni I am working with love and care deeply for Mount St. Charles.  We seek to stay positive, productive, and proactive.  We look forward to working with administration to fix this policy.

The psalmist writes, “This is the dat that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118: 24, NRSV).

It has now been roughly 36 hours since I wrote my blogpost on my reactions of the Mount St. Charles policy on Transgender Students.  My head is still spinning from all that is happened in just 36 hours.  Throughout the day yesterday I was continually reminded of a quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

The organizing I have been a part of started with 6 alumni (Julie Hamel McBrien ’06, Samantha Ward ’06, Alicia Bissonette ’08, Ryan Glode ’08, Nicholas Martin ’08, and myself ’07), and was only 6 alumni for the few minutes until we started a Facebook group (Concerned Alumni Against Mount St. Charles’s Trans-Exclusive Policy).  Within hours hundreds of alumni had joined the group offering words of encouragement and pledges to support the cause.  While we were doing this, another gradate started a Change.org petition.  In the last 36 hours we have organized a letter writing campaign, written a press releases, had several media interviews, and responded to a statement published by Mount St. Charles, a second statement that was subsequently edited to have, what I believe, is a softer tone (both statements are included a the end of this post).

As I watched my Facebook account go insane from the number of notifications, I sat back and watched with awe.  As notification upon notification, message up message, post upon post, emerged on my screen I learned something very important: There is no stopping a group of Mount St. Charles graduates when they set their mind to something.

I guess I always new this, but what is happening on social media has taken this to a completely new level.  Mounties I do not know, Mounties I have not spoken to in almost a decade, Mounties I did not particularly get along with during our six years there have reached out and stood up.  The messages of love and support have been so overwhelming that I have had a difficult time keeping up.  Not only are these messages of love and support for my story, they are letters to the administration expressing disappointment, frustration, and anger, and they are messages asking what they can do to help.  This is what it means to be a Mountie.  This is why I have loved this placed so deeply for all these years.  This is why I refuse to retire some of my favorite Mount t-shirts.

So to the administration’s request for help – we have you cover.  We have always had you covered, all you had to do was ask.  

deskThis picture is what the corner of my desk looks like right now (yes, that is a Minion bluetooth speaker).
Before I went to bed last night, I moved my replica Mount St. Charles sign from a shelf collecting dust to the place you see it now.  I did that to remind myself why I have been proud to call myself a Mountie.  I did it to remind myself of the love and support that is coming out of the woodworks.  I did it to remind myself of the commitment I have made to work with my fellow alumni and the administration to make Mount into a place that can warmly welcome all student who walk through their doors. 

The psalmist writes, “This is the dat that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118: 24, NRSV).

As of this morning here is where things are:

My initial blogpost has been viewed 6,359 time

The Change.org petition has 1028 signatures

Our Concerned Alumni Against Mount St. Charles’s Trans-Exclusive Policy group has 791 members

Here is what Mount initially set out on their social media profiles and via email: 

Statement Regarding Transgender Students at MSC

The policy that currently appears in the Mount Saint Charles Student Handbook is not intended to be discriminatory toward transgendered students nor is Mount Saint Charles Academy’s intent or desire to exclude transgender students. The policy was put in place for the simple reason that Mount Saint Charles feels that its facilities do not presently provide the school with the ability to accommodate transgender students.
As a Catholic school, Mount Saint Charles recognizes its call to serve all children who desire a Catholic education, but Mount Saint Charles also recognizes that it is not a comprehensive high school with the ability to serve all students. Some students may not be academically qualified. Others may have learning plans which the school cannot accommodate. And in some cases, our facilities may not be adequate to service some students.
Although the school has not been approached with any requests to admit transgender students, Mount Saint Charles Academy’s administration has been exploring ways in which it might provide reasonable accommodations for transgender students and fulfill its mission.
Rather than criticize the school for a policy you deem unreasonable, please try to understand the reason for its existence, please know that we would very much like to correct the problem, and your help would go a long way in allowing us to achieve that goal.
Here is their edited statement:

Statement Regarding Transgender Students at MSC

Mount Saint Charles Academy deeply regrets the unintended hurt feelings at and seeming insensitivity of our policy regarding the acceptance of transgendered young people. The policy that currently appears in the Mount Saint Charles Student Handbook is not intended to be discriminatory toward transgendered students nor is Mount Saint Charles Academy’s intent or desire to exclude transgender students. The policy was put in place for the simple reason that Mount Saint Charles feels that its facilities do not presently provide the school with the ability to accommodate transgender students.

As a Catholic school, Mount Saint Charles recognizes its call to serve all children who desire a Catholic education, but it also recognizes that it is not a comprehensive high school with the ability to serve all students. Some students may not be academically qualified. Others may have learning plans which the school cannot accommodate. And in some cases, our facilities may not be adequate to service some students.

Although the school has not been approached with any requests to admit transgender students, Mount Saint Charles Academy’s administration has been exploring ways in which it might provide reasonable accommodations for transgender students and fulfill its mission.

While Mount Saint Charles can respect that some may find our current policy somewhat inconsistent and intolerant, please try to understand the reason for its existence. This is certainly not our intent. Please know that we would very much like to address the issue, and your prayers and kind assistance would go a long way in allowing us achieve that goal.

Our Response to Mount’s initial statement: 

Thank you for responding, MSC!
On behalf of the 700 + alums concerned about this issue, we first want to remind you we love you and come at this with the intentions of preserving the community we know and love.
The language of the policy has unintended consequences of students, particularly LGBTQ students, to feel cut off or disconnected, and thus pained by the policy.
We acknowledge we do not know the reason for the policy and that is a main concern, as noted in our official statement (see below). We are criticizing the policy’s existence and language, not the reasoning behind the decision. We stand critical of the impact, not the intent.
We are wanting and willing to dialogue about this and help Mount fulfill its mission to serve students that meet Mount’s academic standards.
Please contact one of us for more questions

Official Statement for the Press
For Immediate Release
WHO: Concerned Alumni of Mount Saint Charles Academy
WHAT: Relating to transgender student policy in the Mount Saint Charles Academy Handbook, 2015
WHERE: Woonsocket, RI

We, the alumni of Mount Saint Charles, are deeply disappointed by the policy provision by the Mount Saint Charles Academy administration in the 2015-16 Student Handbook that refuses admittance for transgender students based on a lack of undefined accommodations. This policy also notes that current students who identify as transgender will be unenrolled. We were previously un-aware of the policy; this week it became widely shared on social media and came to our attention.

Mount Saint Charles has always been an incredible pillar of support for so many students. Many alumni give Mount credit as the formative experience in their lives that has led to success in the greater community. Actions like this seem wholly uncharacteristic of the institution and do not speak to the principles of Mount’s mission of valuing and treasuring each student.
Furthermore, we are also concerned as to what “accommodations” means, as it is undefined in the policy. There are solutions to explore beyond outright expulsion and refusal of admittance, from physical accommodations like putting in a family bathroom or social accommodations like creating a safe environment for all students, regardless of differences. Over 600 alumni have already come together to speak out against this action.

The alumni behind this belief love Mount Saint Charles and are speaking out from a place of concern. The community that is fostered there is meant to be one of love, respect, and support. That is what we were taught. We do not take provisions like this lightly. We want to protect and preserve the community that made every student feel safe and supported. This is an opportunity to learn, grow, and come together to push past our differences. We look forward to speaking further with administration to find a resolution to this decision. Julie McBrien ’06, Samantha Ward ’06, Dante Tavolaro ’07, Alicia Bissonnette ’08, Ryan J. Glode ’08, and Nick Martin ’08.

Want to know more about what is going on? Checkout these media outlets: 

ABC 6

The Daily Beast

RI Future

GoLocalProv

NBC 10: WJAR

WPRI 12 Eyewitness New

The Providence Journal

 

 

Official Statement for the Press

For Immediate Release

WHO: Concerned Alumni of Mount Saint Charles Academy

WHAT: Relating to transgender student policy in the Mount Saint Charles Academy Handbook, 2015

WHERE: Woonsocket, RI

We, the alumni of Mount Saint Charles, are deeply disappointed by the policy provision by the Mount Saint Charles Academy administration in the 2015-16 Student Handbook that refuses admittance for transgender students based on a lack of undefined accommodations. This policy also notes that current students who identify as transgender will be unenrolled. We were previously un-aware of the policy; this week it became widely shared on social media and came to our attention.

Mount Saint Charles has always been an incredible pillar of support for so many students. Many alumni give Mount credit as the formative experience in their lives that has led to success in the greater community. Actions like this seem wholly uncharacteristic of the institution and do not speak to the principles of Mount’s mission of valuing and treasuring each student.

Furthermore, we are also concerned as to what “accommodations” means, as it is undefined in the policy. There are solutions to explore beyond outright expulsion and refusal of admittance, from physical accommodations like putting in a family bathroom or social accommodations like creating a safe environment for all students, regardless of differences. Over 600 alumni have already come together to speak out against this action.

The alumni behind this belief love Mount Saint Charles and are speaking out from a place of concern. The community that is fostered there is meant to be one of love, respect, and support. That is what we were taught. We do not take provisions like this lightly. We want to protect and preserve the community that made every student feel safe and supported. This is an opportunity to learn, grow, and come together to push past our differences. We look forward to speaking further with administration to find a resolution to this decision.

ORGANIZER CONTACTS:

Dante Tavolaro: dante.tavolaro@yale.edu; Alicia Bissonnette : bissonne@seattleu.edu ; Nicholas Martin: nrhmartin@gmail.com ; Julie Hamel McBrien : juliehamel87@gmail.com ; Samantha Ward : smw424@gmail.com ; Ryan Glode : rglode@assumption.edu

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