MICDS Alum Details 'Casual Racism' at St. Louis Private School


The 100-acre campus of MICDS is located in Ladue. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/DEAN SHARESKI
  • Photo courtesy of Flickr/Dean Shareski
  • The 100-acre campus of MICDS is located in Ladue.

Students at St. Louis' prestigious Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS) who complained that they were discriminated against for supporting Donald Trump have garnered a response from a young black alum of the school — who details the numerous incidents of "casual racism" she experienced throughout her eight years there.

"All students should be treated with respect, but if MICDS and other similar private schools want to address political civility, they should also soothe minorities who are too scared of sounding 'ungrateful' because they're one of five Latino students or one of six black students," Leah Thomas writes in a public LinkedIn post. After all, Thomas writes, rather than getting an "apology letter" like the Trump-supporting students, she was told to "deal with" the discomfort she experienced.

Thomas writes that she attended MICDS from fifth grade through graduation before attending college in California, beginning in 2013. Her LinkedIn profile says she is now a writer for the website KimberlyElise.com.

Thomas writes that she was one of five black girls in her class, and the founder of the school's Young Democrats club in 2012 — before that, she writes, only the Young Republicans existed.

She also lists a slew of troubling incidents:

— In fifth grade, a gorilla was drawn on a whiteboard. "A few students joked that the picture depicted a black student in the class."

— In sixth grade, the school was locked down after someone wrote "kill all" and then used a gay slur and the n-word. "It was the first time I'd heard the n-word. I was told 'It's in rap music Leah' and to not be offended," she writes.

— In eighth grade, when Obama was elected, his inauguration was live-streamed. "I overheard 'Why do we have to watch this, black people have rights now.'"

— In twelfth grade, she heard Obama being accused of not being a true citizen, of being a Muslim "as thought that were an insult" and also heard him called the n-word.

Thomas says she wrote her post to provide context for the students complaining about their anti-Trump pushback.

"I wrote this, not to complain, because I'm content with my experience and wouldn't be an advocate for social justice without it," she concludes. "You can be grateful and still critique the institutions you attend. You can be patriotic and still critique government officials."

You can read the post online at LinkedIn.com.

In a statement, MICDS Head of School Lisa Lyle said this about Thomas' post:
MICDS is committed to diversity and inclusion, critical thinking, and an open exchange of ideas in civil and thoughtful discourse. We do not accept racism, slurs or hate speech of any kind and we will act whenever made aware of incidents.

We appreciate the active engagement of our students, parents, and alumni, in this discussion. And we will not shy away from these difficult issues. That’s why we’re supporting the students who want to form a Cross-Political Coalition. That’s why our Board Collaboration and Inclusion Committee will be conducting an intensive review of the school’s collaboration and inclusion efforts. And we plan to host facilitated conversations in our community, to take this opportunity to make sure all voices will be heard and engaged in respectful conversation.

A spokeswoman for Lyle also referred readers to a longer press release and a letter to the community.

Editor's note: We updated this post around 5 p.m. to include a statement from MICDS.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.