Alumni of Brentwood Academy are speaking up about a “pattern of callous disregard and willful negligence … regarding issues of racial harm and insensitivity” from the leadership of their alma mater, calling the school’s environment “hostile to students of color.”
Five Brentwood Academy alumni published an open letter to the school’s board of trustees online Thursday after sending a letter directly to the board on Tuesday, prior to a meeting. Both letters requested the same thing: an investigation into Brentwood Academy Headmaster Curt Masters’ fitness to lead and a meeting with the board to discuss the alumni’s concerns.
After receiving the group’s letter on Tuesday, which was signed by over 850 school alumni and parents, the board denied the request for a meeting, according to the group.
In the letter expressing “no confidence” in Masters’ leadership, the former students accuse Masters of threatening the school’s teacher of African American history and track and football coach Brad Perry in an attempt to “silence and suppress” his perspective. Some alumni have taken to social media to clarify that these alleged threats followed Perry’s blog post for The Public, condemning the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, which Perry called “a conflation of so many sadistic elements that have been allowed to fester and grow over the last decade.”
Perry is a Brentwood Academy alumnus and has been employed by the school for over 20 years. Separately, in 2019, he co-founded The Public, an antiracism group in Franklin.
In his blog post, he called on leaders in the Williamson County community who participated in the rally at the Capitol and on U.S. Senators for Tennessee Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty to “repent of their poor leadership” and encouraged all residents of Williamson County “to do some soul searching and to take a step toward love and racial equity.”
A representative from Masters’ office at Brentwood Academy sent the following statement to the Williamson Herald: “While we are unable to comment on personnel matters, I can assure you there is no truth to rumors that anyone is being threatened, fired, or forced to resign.”
In an email sent to Brentwood Academy families this week, Michael Drescher, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, echoed this statement and expressed that the board members “fully support our headmaster Curt Masters and each of the individuals employed by Brentwood Academy.”
“In developing ongoing conversations about how to live out that mission of nurturing and challenging each whole person to the glory of God, we have been teaching and clarifying our expectations that while we can (and often do) disagree, we can do so while treating each other well,” Drescher wrote in the email. “We have consistently expressed our commitment to treat each other in ways that cultivate respect, promote unity, and build each other up, while refraining from divisive rhetoric, without labeling, shaming, or attacking.”
Drescher referenced the slogan of a campaign the school launched at the beginning of the school year: “free to disagree, love each other well.” The group of alumni have criticized the campaign for its neutrality.
Further, the former students clarified in their open letter that the situation surrounding Perry is a “mere fraction” of their concern, saying that race-related issues have consistently led to “listening sessions” at the school resulting in “inaction or impotent action that has no lasting impact on the underlying issues.”
The letter outlined an incident in 2016 in which “a group of students led by a faculty member rallied outside the school the day after the presidential election” and “proceeded to storm through the halls, antagonizing students of color with racial chants.” The alumni wrote that, when concerned parents asked school administration to take action concerning this incident — to provide diversity training for its teachers and meet with the rallying students and staff — the school instead conducted “a school assembly championing the need for good sportsmanship when we have political differences.”
The alumni also mentioned an email Masters sent to Brentwood Academy families following the killing of George Floyd this past summer, saying it “failed to combat racial injustice actionably.” One former student posted about the letter on social media in June, calling it “nicety-ridden” and saying that, while it mentions sin, it does not “acknowledge the sin of systemic racism that defines the culture of an academy founded in the wake of school desegregation.”
The letter claims that, after this email was sent, the school held listening sessions during which alumni and parents again requested diversity training for staff, which it says was not provided.
Following the publishing of the open letter on Thursday, Brentwood Academy issued another statement, saying the school is reviewing the letter and promises to address the issues mentioned therein first through private discussions with those directly involved.
“The concerns that have been raised are serious, and they will be addressed and the board will take appropriate action,” the statement reads. “We condemn all forms of racism and racial injustice.”
The alumni asked again in their open letter for a meeting with the board of trustees and a third-party investigation into the school’s leadership, saying that if their requests are ignored, they believe that the school’s “environment will continue to become irreparably divided.”
“Our love for this community motivates in us a desire to see it thrive at a higher level for everyone involved,” the open letter reads. “We believe that if Brentwood Academy would seriously engage with these demands, despite how painful that process might be, the resulting community would flourish.”
Read the full letter on the group’s website at BA-AntiracismCommunity.com.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, to include a recent statement from Brentwood Academy.