Julia Bard's Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Ms. Fisher and Castilleja Board of Trustees,

      By now I know you have received many letters from various members of the Castilleja community regarding the mysterious dismissal of Bear Capron. I would like to add to these accounts my own personal support of Bear Capron, and a sympathetic warning to the school.

      I graduated from Castilleja last year, and when I met with you, Ms. Fisher, to give input regarding my experience with the school, I felt extremely grateful for the opportunity and hopeful that the administration was taking an active interest in the opinions and experience of its students. When I described my favorite things about the school, my main praise was for the teachers. Mr. Capron epitomizes Castilleja's impressive teachers and is an integral part of what I was referring to in my personal praise. Besides providing an excellent education in the arts, Mr. Capron directly contributed to my coming out of the school a much more well-rounded and worldly student.

      As my most prized mentor, Mr. Capron was a primary source of my intellectual, mental, and emotional growth over my seven years at Castilleja. I don't think I would have ever built up the confidence to audition for plays, musicals, choral performances, or any other public performance had I not been constantly encouraged by Mr. Capron. My current self-confidence—the same self-assurance which helped me thrive at my job this past summer and get through college interviews—I attribute directly to him. His talent for encouraging students through compliments and constructive criticism makes him the ideal mentor—one who can act both as a fundamental supporter, and as a source of growth and improvement. He taught me the importance not only of expressing the truth and of helping people grow, but also of stepping back and of tolerating others with different viewpoints.

      Of all of the wonderful teachers I had at Castilleja, I value Mr. Capron as one of my best mentors, friends, and role models. I know that my experience with Mr. Capron is characteristic of his interactions with many other students, whether they were involved in theater or not. Within my friend group, even those who were never involved in drama have related stories to me about how Mr. Capron was there for them and went out of his way to get to know and encourage them. Few have done more for Castilleja than Bear Capron.

      Regarding his recent dismissal from the school, like the rest of the community, I am obviously uncertain about the exact reasoning and the situation behind his disappearance due to the lack of transparency from the administration. The most plausible explanation, however, seems to be that he was dismissed after showing a somewhat controversial film in his film class. I was immediately shocked by this possible justification, as I have heard he required permission slips for rated R movies from the parents of his students and, in addition, I've heard and know from experience that he would allow any students who felt uncomfortable with the movie to leave. As a student at Castilleja, I remember a number of times where I was shown controversial or "racy" material: reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Death in Venice, watching If..., Othello, and Germinal (while my peers watched Europa, Europa), to name a few. In my experience, the teachers chose such materials tastefully and to enhance our education, and students were of course allowed to express their discomfort; I am confident the situation with Mr. Capron was not much different.

      While the silence on the administration's part has clearly caused significant—and seemingly unwarranted—damage to Mr. Capron's reputation, I hope you understand the extremely negative reflection this event has had on Castilleja's overall image as well. As many of my peers have pointed out, this action in many ways undermines the administration's support of the 5 C's, and, additionally, contradicts the school motto of "Women Learning, Women Leading." By withholding I information from students, faculty, and alumna, the administration seems to grant very little respect towards our reasoning skills, maturity, and ability to understand important dilemmas that characterize various types of leadership. The only type of leadership the Castilleja administration has modeled and implicitly promoted through this event is a subtle form of totalitarianism. The very type Mr. Mitchell taught so many of us about in 10th grade; the kind characterized by the widespread fear of its members and by a suppression of knowledge.

      After a proper reversal of the administrative decisions eliminating peer advising and Latin, many of my peers and I sincerely hoped that the school would recover and reconnect with its students and faculty. However, Mr. Capron's dismissal unfortunately shows this not to be the case. If Castilleja does not make significant steps towards demonstrating its connection to its students—primarily by reinstating Bear Capron and fully explaining the situation—I fear that many students, alumna, and teachers will likewise feel they have lost their connection to Castilleja. I know I personally will feel very little inclination to endorse or support the school that I have loved for so long if I do see significant progress soon.

      Please let me reiterate that I wish Castilleja the best, and I want nothing more than to continue to feel a strong connection to the school. Again though, I encourage the board and the administration to examine the feelings of its students, alumna, faculty, and larger community. You need only look to the Facebook group "WE WANT UNCLE BEAR BACK!", the website www.whereisbear.org, or your students on campus to see the detriment Bear Capron's dismissal has caused to your students and your reputation. Please resolve the confusion and pain of your community by bringing clarity to the issue and restoring Bear Capron to his rightful place at Castilleja.

Julia Bard
Class of '09

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