The motto of Sidwell Friends School, the hyperselective “Harvard of Washington’s private schools,” is simple and lofty. “Eluceat omnibus lux”—Latin for “Let the light shine out from all.” But bright lights sometimes illuminate the worst in people. Last month, shocking behavior by parents may have led two of the school’s three college counselors to leave their jobs.
School officials have repeatedly warned parents, who represent the pinnacle of elite Washington, about their offensive conduct. In January, the head of the school, Bryan Garman, sent a remarkable letter to parents of seniors in which he demanded that they stop “the verbal assault of employees.” He also reiterated a policy banning them from recording conversations with counselors and making calls to counselors from blocked phone numbers. Garman also suggested that some parents were responsible for the “circulation of rumors about students.”
Anger, vitriol, and deceptiveness have come to define highly selective college admissions. In the now notorious Varsity Blues scandal, the desire from wealthy parents to get their children into such elite institutions as Yale and the University of Southern California led them to lie on applications and obtain fake SAT scores. At Sidwell Friends, one of America’s most famous Quaker schools, the desire manifested itself in bad behaviors—including parents spreading rumors about other students, ostensibly so that their children could get a leg up, the letter said.