Seeking ‘diversity,’ school drops Byrnes from name
From Staff Reports
Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School, a large private school in Darlington County, has deleted “Byrnes” from its name, citing the segregationist past of James F. Byrnes and the school’s desire to “embrace diversity.”
The school will now be known as Trinity Collegiate School, as it was before it merged with Byrnes Academy in 2012, the school said in a news release last week.
The school’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously July 6 to change the school’s name, but the decision was not made public until Aug. 19. School officials describe the move as a “re-identification.”
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Trinity Collegiate School, William Naso, said “the re-identification as Trinity Collegiate School better reflects the current student body, faculty and school mission and the board believes this decision is in the best long-term interest of the students, families, faculty and alumni, as well as for the continued success of the school as a whole.”
Trinity’s news release cited “the segregationist and controversial past of James F. Byrnes” as the reason for the change.
Byrnes was member of Congress, served as a Supreme Court judge, and was governor of South Carolina from 1951-55. Byrnes opposed anti-lynching legislation and some of the labor laws proposed by President Roosevelt.
As governor, Byrnes opposed the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and sought to establish “separate but equal” as a realistic alternative to the desegregation of schools. Byrnes played a role in blocking anti-lynching legislation claiming lynching was necessary “in order to hold in check the Negro in the South.”
As governor he supported segregation in education, stating in his inaugural address, “Whatever is necessary to continue the separation of the races in the schools of South Carolina is going to be done. …”
Beginning in January of this year, Trinity created an internal task force on diversity, equity and inclusion as part of the school’s 2020-25 strategic plan to review all aspects of the school and to ensure the school was living its mission of commitment to diversity and inclusivity as outlined in the plan. As the summer months gave rise to a renewed interest and emphasis on the Black Lives Matter movement, the task force and board accelerated their review and determined it was the right time and decision to change the name, the school said.
“There is a cultural shift taking place in the country right now and everyone and every institution is examining itself and becoming more aware of names, symbols and language that exclude and alienate certain groups of people,” said Trinity Collegiate School Director of Diversity Mike Teasley. “We hope that this change will reflect who we are as a school and send a message to the larger community that Trinity Collegiate School welcomes everyone and embraces diversity in all forms.”
Over the past five years, the school said in its news release, Trinity has made strides to become more inclusive and welcoming to all families in the broader community. Students of color make up 31 percent of the school’s overall enrollment, one of the highest among all South Carolina Independent School Association members (SCISA). By comparison, Trinity said, African-American undergraduate enrollment at the University of South Carolina Columbia campus is 10.2 percent and 6.3 percent at Clemson University.
“This is a bold and progressive step for the school and will better reflect who we are as an institution and community,” said Head of School Ed Hoffman. “The school has prided itself on always looking forward and focusing on larger issues and this change is yet another example of the school’s progressive and broadminded approach to education and to issues that are relevant to our students and community.”
The Board of Trustees and the school administration has long recognized that Byrnes’ legacy of segregation and views on African-Americans are inconsistent with the core values and mission of the school, Trinity said.
Naso said, “Given the school’s longstanding history of promoting a culture of diversity and inclusivity, as well as the student body’s current demographics, this step is appropriate and timely.”
Trinity teachers recently took part in a Diversity and Inclusivity Workshop that encouraged participants to think more openly and engage in conversations about race, ethnicity, privilege, gender and sexuality. It pushed the participants to recognize their own biases.
On Aug. 20, Trinity opened with its largest enrollment to date with 340 students in grades 6-12. Even though COVID-19 has impacted the enrollment at many schools and universities, Trinity has continued to remain fully enrolled.
The school year opened with new rules and procedures in place to keep students and faculty safe including GoSafe Monitoring Stations for temperature checks, socially-distanced classes, one-way entrances and exits and additional outdoor seating areas.
A new school nurse was hired to assist with any medical needs and new custodians have been hired to help ensure classes are cleaned regularly throughout the day.