An Open Letter to the Community

Alison Gill and Gabe Fleisher

To the John Burroughs School Community:

This summer, our community watched as MICDS–a school to which we are connected like no other, by rivalry and friendship–grappled with the impact of racial slurs in a controversy that spilled out into the public. The incident received coverage across St. Louis and nationwide, in addition to meriting repeated mention by our own Head of School in multiple Assemblies. The Editors-in-Chief felt (and still feel) as though a news event of such magnitude just down the road surely deserved mention in the Burroughs newspaper.

When The World published an article online focusing on Burroughs’ response to the events at MICDS, their Head of School wrote to ours, and Mr. Abbott reached out to us, asking that we take the article off of our website. We did so, believing the removal to be temporary. It wasn’t. Neither school clarified what portion of the article was found objectionable.

Despite attempts to amend what we already believed to be a fair and balanced article, we cannot share that article with our readers. It has been, and only will be, seen by a small group of editors, as well as administrators at both schools.

While the Editorial Board recognizes Mr. Abbott’s right, as the publisher of the paper, to remove an article from our paper, we do not feel as though it was fair or deserved. We stand by the piece as a measured and important piece of journalism, highlighting events that occurred in close proximity to Burroughs that were painful for many in our community. The World attempted to fulfill what we feel is our duty to inform the school community, and we were silenced.

Both Burroughs and MICDS publicly acknowledge racism in their schools and claim a commitment to eradicating it. However sunlight is always the best disinfectant: if these issues are not aired and made public, but swept under the rug, they will never be solved.

Particularly in a time when attacks against the media are rampant–from a President who says it is “disgusting the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” to a Congressman in Montana elected despite body-slamming a reporter, to protesters here in St. Louis who attacked journalists covering a Black Lives Matter rally–we strongly feel that John Burroughs should stand unapologetically on the side of transparency and freedom of the press. We cannot run away from serious issues. We can only face them head-on, and doing anything else will not yield progress. If reporting on use of racist slurs–at MICDS recently, or within our own community–is silenced, those hateful words will only become louder. The Editors-in-Chief are saddened by the interference in reporting on acts of racism in this community; we protest this act of censorship and hope that both schools will reconsider and allow the original story to be read by all.

Alison Gill, Editor-in-Chief
Gabe Fleisher, Junior Editor-in-Chief

This editorial is the opinion of the sponsor and Editors-in-Chief of The World, and does not reflect the opinions of John Burroughs School’s administration, faculty, or student body at-large. We encourage all members of the Burroughs community, or anyone with thoughts on the issue, to tell us what you think by emailing [email protected]