Discussion on race, teacher’s dismissal spur outrage at Arvada school

A little over a month after a “Race and Faith” chapel event that ruffled the feathers of some students and parents at Faith Christian Academy, the private Christian school fired the faculty member responsible for it.
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Faith Christian Academy’s High School campus in Arvada, March 12, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; arvada; school; education;

Faith Christian Academy's High School campus in Arvada, March 12, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A little over a month after a “Race and Faith” chapel event that ruffled the feathers of some students and parents at Faith Christian Academy, the private Christian school fired the faculty member responsible for it.

Gregg Tucker, who was a teacher and chaplain at the school, organized the event with the help of the school's administration partially in response to several racist incidents that took place at the school about a year ago, which he described in an open letter as "blatant, unsettling, and had a profound impact on how many of our minority students were feeling at the school."

A large majority of Faith Christian's approximately 1,000 students are white, according to GreatSchools.

Faith Christian superintendent Andrew Hasz told Denverite that Tucker’s dismissal was an unrelated personnel decision, and not in response to the discussion held at the "Race and Faith" event. While Hasz acknowledged that the conversation brought to light several cultural issues within the academy, he feels that the school is and will continue to be intentional about addressing any racial disparities.

"It is something we want to take head-on," he said. "We would definitely not to try to avoid it, the fact that it was brought up in assembly was a part of an administrative decision."

The Jan. 12 “Race and Faith” chapel itself consisted of a panel discussion with a coalition of faith-based leaders who are actively grappling with issues regarding privilege and racial inequity. They addressed racist incidents that took place in the fall of 2016, a semester in which former Faith Christian parent Maria McVicker said multiple minority students left the school.

Some Faith Christian parents and students felt that the discussion constituted an attack on whiteness, and that it pushed a political agenda in an inappropriate setting.

In a forum meeting about a week after the chapel event, disgruntled Faith Christian parents voiced their opposition to Tucker's discussion. McVicker provided a transcript of that meeting, with names redacted, that included complaints from parents claiming the event was an attempt to indoctrinate children enrolled in the school and that the school had fundamentally violated their contract with the parents regarding the nature of the education that should take place at Faith Christian Academy.

"If racial, ethnic and cultural diversity was our priority, we would have chose differently," one parent said. "Perhaps Manual High School."

"The constant barrage of the secular liberal progressive movement on our country is dividing this country like a poisonous cancer," said another.

Many parents felt that a line had been crossed, and demanded that action be taken.

"Mr. Tucker has been talked to numerous times in the past and now it’s time for accountability in order to prevent this from happening again," one parent said.

During the meeting, an advocate of Tucker's voiced her concern for students that had been the victims of the racist incidents Tucker was hoping to address.

"But I will tell you," she said, "they are bullied, they are treated with less respect. They don’t feel safe. They don’t feel welcomed.

"I am so sorry because my child is not welcomed here. And if you don’t want brown children, tell them. Don’t let them in the school. That is okay too. You can do whatever you want, right?"

Tucker wrote in his Feb. 6 open letter that while he anticipated pushback from the "Race and Faith" chapel, due to the sensitive nature of such discussions and particularly in a predominantly white community, he felt that ultimately some misinterpreted his intent -- and that he was saddened when he and a parent of color were "berated in both email interactions and parent meetings."

"I understand that verbiage like 'white privilege' and 'systemic bias' can be loaded and that some families are going to disagree with the degree that these are perceived or actually present at our school and in our communities; however, the jump to sensing a desire to incur guilt and shame, claiming it was motivated by a political agenda, or that there were broad accusations of racism truly seem unfounded," he wrote.

"I was hoping we could do a better job of addressing inappropriate racial, ethnic, or sexist comments and jokes, a better job of recognizing and raising awareness of the complex systems that work against minorities, a better job of combating the insensitivity, ignorance and apathy in this area, and ultimately a better job of promoting a more diverse and unified family of God in our school, our churches and our communities."

McVicker told Denverite that after Tucker's firing, she also decided that her child will not return to the school next year, and that she believes other parents of color may also leave the school in response to the dismissal.

Clarification: A previous version of this story did not make clear the timing of McVicker's child leaving the school. 

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