JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An Instagram account called Black At Bolles created to share stories from students, alumni and parents caught the head of the private school by surprise. School president Tyler Hodges, president and head of school, posted on Bolles’ website that the accusations on the Black at Bolles social media account are “certifiably false and deeply hurtful.”
“While we can always and will do better, I am proud of the actions we have taken to advance diversity, inclusion and opportunity with our faculty and student body,” Hodges wrote.
Hodges wrote that the school is committed to pursuing truth in a transparent and open manner.
The site sharing the black experience of Bolles’ students, faculty, and staff was recently taken down. The school said it had nothing to do with the removal and the site was back up Monday afternoon.
“I think that Bolles has to do a lot of work in the sense that they can’t invalidate anyone’s experiences,” said a recent graduate who wanted to stay anonymous.
“Black at BishopKenny” and “Black at Episcopal” accounts have also recently appeared on Instagram. Similar things are happening with other local private and magnet schools as well.
News4Jax emailed Bolles’ president asking how they know the accusations are false and if they’ve investigated every allegation on the page. While he has not responded, the schools’ director of communications, Jan Olson, did comment:
“While some definitely have come forward as unfortunately being true we also know that some are false. And we’re looking at all of the allegations,” Olson said. “Some of the incidents that were actually mentioned aren’t even here or true to be credible with the school anymore so some things were old.”
Asked for a response, the administrator of the Black at Bolles Instagram account was not impressed the response from Bolles’ president.
The anonymous direct message from the Black at Bolles administrator also responded to Olsen’s remarks.
Meanwhile, a petition with about 30 demands surrounding inclusion, diversity, updates to courses and removal of some faculty and staff at Bolles has hundreds of signatures.
For the faculty named in the petition, Bolles said it has been in contact with them and an outside resource will assess the accusations. It’s also encouraging those who made the accusations anonymously to come forward with facts.
“Bolles is a really great place and I feel like change will be coming soon and I’m pretty optimistic about that,” said the recent graduate.
Olson said they have a director of diversity and inclusion working at this school and that this is something they’ve been working on for a long time. She said they are relying on a task force made up of parents, alumni, faculty and staff to report to the president and board of trustees with what they learn.
“In addition, we are also seeking a legal professional who specializes in racial issues to assist in leading specific allegations against faculty and to assist in conducting a thorough and independent review of all allegations,” Olson said.