By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
A Bronx prep school is being pressured by two members of the class of 2020 to remove fellow former student Attorney General William Barr from it’s “Distinguished Alumni” list after he ordered the aggressive removal of peaceful protesters outside of St. John’s Church in Washington D.C.
In early June, U.S Park Police and National Guard Troops used tear gas and rushing tactics to force a crowd of peaceful protesters demonstrating against police brutality in the plaza between St. John’s Church and Lafayette Park to clear a path for President Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Barr, as he walked to the Episcopal church for a photo-op. After the crowd scattered, Trump stood briefly outside of the church while holding up a bible for the photo.
“This was a callous and despicable act demonstrating a clear disregard for our democratic values of free speech and racial justice,” reads a petition on Change.org to Horace Mann School. The petition, started by alumnae Kiara Royer and Jessica Rosberger, now has almost 9,000 signatures. ” In addition, Barr violated our school’s Core Values of Mutual Respect and Mature Behavior as well as our Mission Statement by infringing on the common good.”
Barr, Horace Mann School Class of ’67, was given the Horace Mann School Alumni Association’s Award for Distinguished Achievement in 2011. Once the petition gained 5,000 signatures in June, Royer and Rosberger reached out to the alumni association to see what steps were being taken to rescind Barr’s award. The pair reached out to the alumni council a second time once the petition earned an additional 1,000 signatures. But neither received an answer.
“All we want at the end of the day is to know why they made that decision,” said Rosberger. “And we want a timeline of how that is going to happen…we would like our school to have our distinguished alumni award winners be representative of our values.”
In a statement, the Alumni Council announced that it was reviewing the petition request and had created a special committee to evaluate the Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Achievement more broadly. “Among other things, we are examining: the current selection criteria, the topic of rescission, precedent established by other academic and non-profit organizations and community feedback,” the statement reads. The statement adds that the council invited the petition creators to meet with them virtually to share any additional thoughts and they will continue to communicate moving forward.