Notable alumnae, donors object to Harpeth Hall gender diversity policy change, letters show

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 5:53 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Discussions are continuing over Harpeth Hall’s decision to allow anyone who identifies as a female to apply to the prestigious all girls private school. School leaders paused that policy change just days after it was announced following national and international attention and criticism.

Letters obtained and verified through multiple sources by WSMV 4 show concerns and conflict within the Harpeth Hall community surrounding the policy allowing transgender females into the school.

More than 1,000 parents, alumnae, and donors signed the first letter against the gender diversity policy change. Another anonymous letter sent later went further to call for school leaders to be replaced.

The first letter said, “the administration and board at Harpeth Hall have failed.” It goes on to state the school’s “reputation is damaged” and needs “fixing.”

Several community members including countless well-known Nashville doctors, lawyers and businessmen signed the petition

The school community members demanded in-person town hall meetings to discuss their concerns without media, crisis management or public relations teams. Multiple people who signed the letter told WSMV 4 that the school instead held virtual meetings where school leaders explained the six-year-long task force that investigated gender diversity at the school. However, many community members said they felt left out of the process.

The second anonymous letter called for the resignation of the “administration and board who have been proponents or enablers of political activism.” It also threatens to “withhold all financial contributions to the school” until their demands are met.

Harpeth Hall ultimately reversed the policy change, issuing a pause to the new admission guidelines that were announced just a week earlier. The school declined multiple requests for an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson issued a statement.

“The gender philosophy shared with Harpeth Hall’s current parents and school alumnae was a document designed to offer clarity about how the school approaches gender identity at Harpeth Hall,” a spokesperson said in the statement. “After hearing from parents and alumnae, the Harpeth Hall Board of Trustees decided to pause and provide additional opportunities for the school community to be involved in the discussion about gender identity in the context of Harpeth Hall’s all-girls school mission.”

Parents told WSMV 4 off-camera that many girls at the school want the option to have gender diversity.

Many outside groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, supported the decision to allow transgender students to increase their educational opportunities in the Nashville area.

“To see the inclusivity and then to just see it yanked it was really disheartening,” Dakerri Rhone said. “(The people opposing this change) feel like the board is more focused on political activism versus educating girls. I don’t think that could be further from the truth. This is being made to be political, but this isn’t a political issue when we know that kids thrive in school, they thrive in their education when they feel safe and they feel inclusive. That’s what this is really about.”

So far, WSMV 4 has not heard when Harpeth Hall plans to hold additional discussions with its community members.

A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the daughter and son-in-law of Sen. Marsha Blackburn signed this letter. That is not the case. They did not sign such a letter.