A New York City father who pulled his daughter out of The Brearley School after seven years says she “recognized” the K-12, all-girls private academy was “trying to make her feel guilty” about her “skin color.”
Andrew Gutmann, who is white, has faced an onslaught of media attention in recent days since sending former New York Times editor Bari Weiss a scathing letter addressed to Brearley parents, saying the $54,000-a-year institution’s “obsession with race must stop” and criticizing its “antiracism initiatives” as divisive.
His daughter, meanwhile, “has handled the situation with strength and courage,” Gutman told Fox News.
“She completely understands and supports the decision to pull her out of school,” the investment banker-turned-software developer said. “If she had expressed a strong desire to stay, we would have let her and tried to fight the antiracism initiatives from within. Like myself, she recognized the indoctrination tactics being used by the school. She also recognized the school was trying to make her feel guilty for her skin color.”
Brearley is allowing Gutmann’s daughter, who has been learning virtually during COVID-19 but is in “great spirits,” to finish the school year, “and her teachers have been terrific,” he said.
Other parents, he added, have been trying to “de-decotrinate” their children and push back against certain things they are learning in classrooms.
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In his letter to parents posted to Weiss’ Substack publication, Gutmann condemns Brearley for displaying a “cowardly and appalling lack of leadership by appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob,” adding that the school judges his daughter by her skin color and “instructs her to prejudge others by theirs.”
Brearley, which touts a student body in which 55% are students of color, details an extensive, year-old diversity and equity initiative for the 2020-2021 school year on its website.
The school founded in 1884 includes both a “diversity, equity and inclusion statement” as well as an “antiracist statement” on its website.
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The former says the school “believes that diversity of thought, practice and identity are essential elements in preparing students for principled engagement in the world” while the latter encourages Brearley’s “faculty, staff, students, parents and trustees to pursue meaningful change through deliberate and measurable actions” including “participating in antiracist training,” among other things.
Brearley also requires at least one parent or guardian to participate in “required anti-racist training and ongoing reflection.” Application forms require parents to share how one’s “family values align with the School’s commitment,” according to documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.
Gutman argues in his letter, however, that the school does not practice what it preaches.
“I object to Brearley’s vacuous, inappropriate, and fanatical use of words such as ‘equity,’ ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness,'” he wrote. “If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called ‘equity,’ it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets.”
He added that if the “administration was genuinely serious about ‘diversity,’ it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution” and would instead “foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought.”
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Gutmann said he initially chose Brearley for his daughter because he thought it would give her “the best, and most well-rounded education and help her develop into a confident, intellectually fearless young woman” and because he thought his family would be “joining a community of families that especially valued education, rather than just being there for the status symbol.”
But because of the school’s recent antiracism initiatives, some “parents say they are now less likely to make playdates with kids of other races or reach out socially with parents of other races because they are fearful of ‘saying the wrong thing’ or because they just want to avoid any discussions of race,” Gutmann added.
“I believe these antiracism initiatives are incredibly divisive and counterproductive, lead to more segregation, and have severely damaged the sense of community,” he said.
Social media posters applauded Gutmann’s letter and passion, even as Brearley Head of School Jane Fried doubled down on its position. Fried said students were “frightened and intimidated” by the fact that the letter was sent to their homes.
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Further, Fried said Gutmann’s letter “failed both in content and delivery” to “engage … with respect for one another.”
Brearley shared a letter from Pace University law professor Alexander K.A. Greenawalt addressed to Guttman with Fox News. Greenawalt says Guttman’s argument fails to spark “any real debate about Brearley’s policies.”
“Overall, your letter does a great job at lobbing over-the-top insults at the school,” Greenawalt wrote to Gutmann. “Less successful is its ability to convey actual facts that would allow a fair assessment of your arguments, to the extent those arguments are discernible.”
Greenawalt adds that his observations are not meant to “suggest that there is no room for criticism or debate with respect to the Brearley curriculum.”
Gutmann’s concerns are not new; parents in and outside New York City have expressed skepticism with certain antiracist teachings, saying they sometimes appear to drive a wedge between students and families.
Weiss, the reporter and editor who published Gutmann’s letter, founded the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR), a nonpartisan organization “dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all Americans, and promoting a common culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity” in educational institutions and elsewhere.
Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report.