Chelsea Waite's Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Castilleja Board of Trustees,

      The outpouring of concern and outrage that has occurred within the past few days among the many alums and current students concerned over the situation with Bear Capron astounds me. If the students' affection for Mr. Capron has ever been in doubt, that doubt should be obliterated by now. The stories of Mr. Capron's love and support have allowed me to remember the many times that he encouraged me and pushed me to become better than I knew I could be. From an excited, drama-loving sixth grader to the self-aware and confident senior that Castilleja helped me to become, Mr. Capron played an integral role as teacher, mentor and friend. For this reason, I object to the abrupt way that Mr. Capron was removed from Castilleja and the blatant disrespect that the school has paid its students and alums in failing to inform them about the reasons and circumstances surrounding his disappearance.

      At this point I am regrettably only knowledgeable of a part of the story regarding Mr. Capron's disappearance from the Circle. Nevertheless, the fact that Castilleja's students must resort to grounded speculation to make sense of the situation speaks volumes to the way it has been mishandled. As far as I can tell, and as other students' letters have also supposed, Mr. Capron has been dismissed from his position as a result of showing a short film including material that made a student (or students) uncomfortable. As a young woman having substantial interest in youth empowerment and also in mediation, I cannot connect the incident of the film with the immediate dismissal of a beloved teacher from a position he has held for more than twenty years. A situation such as this should be an opportunity to reevaluate Castilleja's role in educating its students as well as facilitate communication between and among those who viewed the film. It is inappropriate for a school so dedicated to teaching and mentoring girls in becoming articulate and confident young women to stifle the potential for dialogue inherent in a situation such as this. Of course, the school has obligations to its students and also to those students' families. The campus includes a broad age range of young women and must accommodate students and families with very different values. If a student or her family were uncomfortable with something that the student encountered at school, this clearly would be grounds for an examination of both the school's mission and the student's comfort at attending Castilleja. It could also be grounds for a reevaluation of a faculty or staff member's fit with the school's mission. The problem I see here is that the transparency of such a dialogue—surrounding the school, the student's attendance at school, and the teacher's fit—has been suppressed.

      The students do not deserve the disrespect of not knowing what has happened to a beloved teacher. Mr. Capron does not deserve an immediate and unexplained dismissal from a position to which he has dedicated himself wholeheartedly. Furthermore—and this is perhaps the root of my discomfort with the whole situation—Mr. Capron has been a teacher at Castilleja for many years. During those years, Castilleja has graduated the most intelligent, savvy, discerning, and creative young women I have ever met. Mr. Capron has mentored many of these young women and in my mind is at the center of Castilleja's mission. If Castilleja has determined that Mr. Capron no longer belongs at the school, I am forced to ask: what has changed, and is that change really beneficial to the students? I know that the teachers who have challenged me and forced me to grow the most have been the ones that confront the ideas I put forward and ask me to explain my convictions. They are also the ones who, after confronting my assumptions, invite me into their offices for tea. Learning and growth certainly benefit from loving and supportive teachers, but even more from teachers who treat students as fellow thinkers, not as children. Mr. Capron has always seen his students as capable, mature young women, and his treatment of them as such is one of the reasons Castilleja produces such outstanding graduates.

      I have been both challenged and supported by many teachers at Castilleja, including Mr. Capron. Before going on stage for my Founder's Day speech in 2007, he told me: "What are you worried about? You're a Castilleja girl!" I would not be that Castilleja girl if not for him, and I will not view Castilleja with the same respect given the treatment afforded my beloved mentor. Please reconsider the way that the school handled this situation, and give the students back one of the best teachers Castilleja has been honored to employ.

Chelsea Waite
Class of 2007

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