On Apr. 13, 2021, former math teacher Paul Rossi publically released an article titled, “I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated.” Rossi used this platform to express his resentment towards Grace’s anti-racist practices and the lack of viewpoint diversity within the Grace community.
Inevitably, Rossi’s article sparked controversy amongst students and families citywide. Reporters from numerous organizations, such as DailyMail and The New York Post, covered the assortment of reactions. Yet, somehow, the voices of Grace students and teaching faculty were the only ones omitted from the larger conversation.
Throughout the article, Rossi reiterates that he speaks “out of concern for [his] students.” In addition, Rossi claimed that he “wanted to be a voice for the many students of different backgrounds who have approached me over the course of the past several years to express their frustration with indoctrination at our school but are afraid to speak up.”
To better understand if Rossi truly represents a silent majority within the Grace community, The Grace Gazette sent out an anonymous survey to the entire High School asking a range of questions about the contents of Rossi’s article.
With over 100 responses from students, teachers, and non-teaching staff, we saw more diversity in opinion than expected.
When asked about whether or not Grace values viewpoint diversity, responses varied drastically.
One student claimed, “Grace has work to do in terms of viewpoint diversity. Any ideas right of progressive are silenced through social and academic consequences.” However, another student had an entirely different point of view: “with our multiple different safe spaces at Grace, I believe we do value viewpoint diversity.”
We asked community members if they feel comfortable expressing uncommon opinions at Grace. 47.7% said that they do not feel comfortable, while 43.2% said that they do. One student remarked, “I think that speaking up is quite taboo at our school, and if someone expresses an uncommon opinion, they’ll be bullied behind their back and insulted in the name of antiracism.”
When asked to share their reactions to Rossi’s article, many students expressed discontent, specifically in how he went about sharing his concerns. Some community members believe that Rossi did not write the article for the sake of his students but rather for other reasons, such as his own ego.
One student remarked, “Though he claims about caring for students, he clearly doesn’t, especially if he’s arguing that kids should just learn to handle being bullied for their race instead of teaching kids not to be racist.”
Some students doubted his intentions, arguing he endangered the school and its reputation in the process of trying to get his opinion publicized. Many students were also concerned about being misrepresented in Mr. Rossi’s article and resented that Mr. Rossi was “speaking” for them.
Other respondents expressed agreement with some aspects of Paul Rossi’s stance, specifically with how the school environment had made it uncomfortable for some to express a differing viewpoint. Another anonymous student remarked, “It was a bit exaggerated but it was inevitable. I agree that this is a severely hostile environment that is dangerous for discourse. Nevertheless, I disagree with a lot of his claims about antiracism.”
Rossi will not be returning to Grace next year. While this news may have generated a variety of emotions within the student body, we can all agree that it is imperative that we continue to strive towards a truly anti-racist community. Hopefully, Rossi’s article will prompt more students with uncommon opinions to speak up during allocated discussion spaces and allow the larger student body richer, productive, and necessary conversations.