Dear Gonzaga Prep Community,
On Thursday night, an alumnus brought to my attention the presence of a photo in our 1968 yearbook depicting a student assembly, with several students dressed in what appear to be the robes of the Ku Klux Klan. Below the photo was a caption that seemed to be an attempt at humor, but can only be considered as racist. I am greatly disturbed for two reasons: First, that such a gathering of our students took place, and that our students saw fit to dress, even mockingingly, in the garb of a racist group that symbolizes hatred, terrorism, and murder. Second, that a photo memorializing the event was permitted to be published in our yearbook, further implying the school’s tacit approval of the event.
On behalf of the school, I apologize for the harm that this photo has caused and the racist attitudes that it has implicitly condoned, from 1968 to present. The purpose of our institution is to promote the sacred life and dignity of every individual, and from the perspective of today’s standards, I can only look back on this aspect of our past with sadness and regret. Despite my remorse, I am grateful for this opportunity to address our history and to learn from our past mistakes.
Gonzaga Prep will own this moment of our history and leverage this opportunity to engage our students in critical reflection of the past and present. I am grateful to our school’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, Mr. Ben Krauss, for guiding our students and community in this important conversation, both today and in the future. In addition, I have reached out to leaders of minority communities in Spokane to seek their insight for how can we best approach this teachable moment.
Even while we intend to learn from the past, I have made the decision to redact this photo from our yearbook collections. I feel that we must weigh the historical and educational value of this image against its potential to perpetuate the hateful ideology of the KKK; in the case of this particular photo, the risk of future harm is too great. From now on, students viewing this yearbook in the school collection will see, next to the redacted content, our official apology and explanation of why the content was redacted.
We have also initiated a review of our entire yearbook collection. It is not our intention to redact any/all objectionable images that may be found. It is essential that we preserve our historic record as much as possible. However, if we encounter images that promote violence, we will consider redaction. We expect this review to provide a deeper understanding of the history of Gonzaga Preparatory School, as we work to promote a culture today that is known by its shared commitment to the Gospel values of justice, inclusion, and reconciliation.
Alumni, community and members of the press, please feel free to contact me at the numbers below with additional questions. I welcome your thoughts and perspectives on this difficult subject and look forward to your partnership in learning from the past and moving forward in love toward a more inclusive future.
Michael Dougherty, President, Gonzaga Preparatory School
509.489.6302 | [email protected]