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Atlanta School Drops Ban on Non-Christian Teachers

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Hoping to end a two-year controversy over its longstanding policy of hiring only Christians for teaching jobs, the board of trustees of the prestigious Westminster Schools in Atlanta has announced it will open its faculty to non-Christians.

Faculty appointments will be open to non-Christians "who support and will implement the Christian goals and objectives'' of the 1,700-student school, according to a statement released by the school in late February.

"Our intention is to remain true to our Christian foundations and also cognizant and responsive to the changing world in which we live and work,'' E. Cody Laird Jr., the chairman of the board of trustees, said in a letter to the school community.

"The right thing to do in order to be a truly Christian school was to change that policy,'' William Clarkson, Westminster's president, said in an interview.

Having non-Christians on the faculty, Mr. Clarkson said, "broadens the perspectives to which children and colleagues are exposed.''

The board of trustees will continue to remain open only to Christians, Mr. Clarkson said.

The K-12, college-preparatory school is independent and nondenominational and has an explicitly Christian-centered mission.

The decision to change the employment policy followed months of debate among trustees, alumni, and others. The dispute received considerable scrutiny from the local and national news media. (See Education Week, May 8, 1991.)

Long-Range Plan

As part of the development of a long-range plan, over the past five months the school solicited comments on the hiring policy from all segments of the Westminster community, Mr. Clarkson said.

In addition to changing the hiring policy, the plan "strengthens the integrity of the school as a Christian school'' by focusing more attention on the meaning and history of Christianity, Mr. Clarkson said.

Stuart Lewengrub, the director of the Southeast regional office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, hailed the policy change.

He credited it to the efforts of John R. Harrison, a vice president of the New York Times Company who resigned from the Westminster board in November in protest over the policy.

"Without Harrison's pressure it wouldn't have happened,'' said Mr. Lewengrub.

Other major factors, he said, were letters from prominent colleges and universities protesting the policy and the decision by three universities last fall to boycott the school's college-recruitment day. (See Education Week, Dec. 9, 1992.)

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