Acknowledging the Trial Verdict in the Death of George Floyd

Danny Stock

Through intentional collaboration between the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the GDS Wellness and Counseling team, and school leadership, GDS provided families and the faculty/staff community with resources to prepare for and respond to the verdict handed down in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. 

On Monday evening, when it became clear that a verdict was expected within the week, this letter was sent by Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Director Marlo Thomas and team members Guyton Mathews and Campbell Keyser in collaboration with counselors Amy Killy ’90 and Gaby Grebski (HS), Gabrielle Holder (MS), and Meryl Heyliger (LS) as well as Director of Student Life and Wellness Bobby Asher to provide the full GDS community with self-care tips and resources for how to talk about the trial with children at home. The letter closed with an acknowledgement that the outcome of the trial would affect each community member differently. “Each division is prepared to process in age-appropriate ways,” they wrote. “Please feel free to contact any of [us] should you have any questions or are interested in processing this more.”

By Tuesday morning, faculty and staff in each division received additional guidance on handling the public announcement, which was anticipated to occur during the school day.

Upon learning that the verdict was imminent, principals, the DEI team, and the counseling and wellness teams solidified plans for community processing spaces; advisory and classroom discussions; and affinity gathering opportunities for students and faculty/staff for Wednesday and beyond.

On Tuesday evening following the verdict finding Chauvin guilty on all counts, Head of School Russell Shaw sent this letter to the community. Division principals Katie Gibson, Debby Previna, and Kimberly Beck also communicated directly with their divisional faculty, and Katie also shared a note directly to High School students. Marlo and the DEI team provided affinity spaces for Black faculty, staff, and students in the High School and Middle School to gather together, recognizing the need for connection, support, and an opportunity to process in solidarity. Additionally, a community processing space was offered for those who wanted to connect across racial identity, and the day ended with a Faculty and Staff of Color affinity space and alliance space for White Antiracist Educator processing and work. 

The portrait of George Floyd included in this post was painted by O’Neill Cushman ’90 to fundraise for Black Lives Matter-related organizations, offering the portrait to the donor who pledged the most in support of one of the suggested organizations. The top donor ultimately chose to give the painting to GDS.