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A Statement from the ACS Head of School on Charlottesville

Posted By Melissa (Michi) A. Trota (Trota), Thursday, August 17, 2017

As Avery Coonley School prepares to welcome students, new and returning, to another school year of growth, learning, and community, our excitement is tempered by the recent riots in Charlottesville, VA. Various groups embracing the toxic ideologies of white supremacy, the KKK, neo-Nazism, and anti-Semitism initiated violence fueled by hatred and bigotry that claimed a brave woman’s life, injured many others, and left sadness, pain, and fear in their wake. These horrific ideologies stand in direct opposition to everything ACS represents: devotion to education and understanding, commitment to civic responsibility, and our embrace of diverse and inclusive communities.

Our first and foremost priority is the safety, both physical and emotional, and well-being of every member of our community; as an institution of education, we also have a responsibility to speak truthfully about the harm wrought by hatred and bigotry, and the need to condemn it swiftly and loudly. History has shown us the human toll exacted when such ugliness makes itself known, and who often pays the terrible cost when it’s allowed to run rampant and unchallenged. It has also taught us what can be achieved through principled resolve, resistance, and inspiration. We choose to follow the brave examples of those who have worked and fought for the progression of justice and equality.

Taking a direct stance against hate speech and bigoted violence is a moral and ethical imperative, one that should not be defined by partisan politics. Only by doing so can we truly contribute to creating a safe and bright future, not just for our students, but for the world they will inherit. To our students, to our staff, to all members of the ACS community: You are all welcome and wanted in our ever-expanding family, and your human rights are sacrosanct. We join in solidarity with our sibling institutions and communities in their unequivocal condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and discrimination, and we reaffirm our dedication to creating a culture that is just and inclusive of all, regardless of ethnicity, race, ancestry, age, interests, sexual orientation, LGBTQIA status, religion, disability status, national origin, immigration status, or gender.

On behalf of the ACS community, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Charlottesville, and with all those who have been victimized by bigotry, fear, and hatred.


In light of these recent events, we feel it is even more important to highlight the necessity of understanding, critical thinking, and empathy as part of education. We have been excited about the return of ACS alumnus Arsalan Iftikhar (Class of ‘91), a noted international human rights lawyer, author, and Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown University, who will be speaking at ACS about Islamophobia and the need to build inclusive communities. Unfortunately, we recently received a hateful, Islamophobic message about Arsalan’s upcoming visit from someone outside of our community, but we stand firm in our dedication to ACS’s principles of inclusion and diversity, as well as our commitment to our community’s safety and well-being. Below is the message I recently sent to ACS parents addressing this issue:

Dear Parents:

As most of you know, we are very excited to host human rights attorney, author and speaker, ACS alum Arsalan Iftikhar on September 13th. Arsalan will spend the day with our students and present to the parents in the evening. Sadly, last night we and some members of the ACS community received what can only be described as a hateful and repulsive email from someone pretending (trolling) to be an ACS parent. This individual railed against our hosting Arsalan, and stated extremely negative and ugly views about our hosting the upcoming visit, Islam, and our community.

I want to take the moment to state unequivocally that ACS will never back away from standing up for human rights, and being a community that welcomes, embraces and supports all backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and genders. The only speech or views we will denounce are those of hate and those that seek to harm or hurt others. The email we received just reinforces, especially as our nation is dealing with the events such as Charlottesville, why bringing Arsalan to ACS is so valuable and so important to our students and to all members of our community.

I firmly believe in my heart that what ACS stands for, and my message, transcend political parties or labeling as liberal or conservative. ACS stands for inclusion, and for celebrating our deeply diverse community members. We will not be intimidated by hate or fear. All students who attend ACS and all who are members of our community must continue to feel safe, secure and supported, and we will welcome Arsalan with open arms and hearts.

Although the email we received was a hateful message, let us all turn this into an opportunity to recommit together to the core values of ACS and celebrate the opening of school in unity!

We are proud of our community's overwhelmingly positive response and eagerness to welcome Arsalan back to ACS. His thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated work reflects the best of the ACS tradition, and we hope you’ll join us in continuing to build inclusive, welcoming communities, both here at ACS and beyond.


Paul Druzinsky, Head of School

on behalf of the ACS Faculty & Staff

Arsalan’s evening presentation at the Avery Coonley School on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 6:30-8:30pm, is open to the public and all-ages welcome. Ticket registration is required to attend. For more information, visit

For more information or any inquiries, please contact Associate Director of Communications and Marketing Michi Trota,

Tags:  Charlottesville  diversity  inclusion  multiculturalism 

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