March 20, 2023
The True History of the Founding of Lake Highland Preparatory School
We can all agree that Lake Highland Prep is a superior school. The education, athletics, and arts as well as the faculty and facilities compel us to send our children there, support the school financially and imbue the alumni with pride. From its humble beginnings in 1970, with 325 students to over 2,000 students today the school has succeeded in “instilling Christian values, inspiring patriotism, developing leaders, and preparing students for college and lifelong learning” – Mission Statement
In March of 2021, that pride in their school was sullied for many alumni by a letter sent from then President Harms. The letter (below) was sent only to LHPS’s alumni in support of the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. It’s curious that they didn’t send the letter to all parents. As such, LHPS leadership revised the history of the school’s founding with “no definitive documents” and stated, “given the mid-century political and cultural climate in America and especially Florida, it seems undeniable that some parents’ strong desire to remove their children from segregated (sic) public schools influenced the birth of Lake Highland Preparatory School.”
This premise gives rise to many questions:
If LHPS was founded as a segregated school, why has our school always accepted students of all Races, Color, Religions, and National Origins?
If a school offers a superior education, how can one question a parent’s motives for sending their children there?
Are there parents today that send their children to Lake Highland to avoid public schools?
What is the reason for questioning the motives and mind-sets of the founders and parents of 50 year ago?
The answer to the last question is clear. The motive for rewriting the school’s history is to undermine its foundation to justify adding DEI to a school that has always been inclusive and successfully practiced its Mission Statement that reads, “Within an atmosphere of love, concern, and mutual respect…” This rewriting of LHPS origins and instituting DEI ideology was introduced during the COVID Pandemic without parent input using methodologies obtained from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).
How do we know their claims on LHP’s founding are erroneous? Because we have reviewed the documents that the school’s leadership used to make their claims. We have talked to alumni and a leader and former board member who were there when the school was founded. We found no proof that LHPS’s founding was for racial purposes. In fact, we found just the opposite.
Lake Highland Preparatory School is in the top ten of private schools in Florida per the website, Niche.com. Lake Highland (#9) ranks up there with Ransom Everglades School (#1), Berkley Preparatory School (#5) and Trinity Prep (#10). Each of these schools has a comprehensive website that affirms its attributes. Non-associated sites like Wikipedia also promote the positive aspects of the schools typically including a brief mention of their founding. Lake Highland’s Wiki page is the exception to that norm.
Lake Highland’s leadership has tarnished its history by rewriting the school’s founding history. A visit to Wikipedia’s Lake Highland Preparatory School page shows the school described as: “… founded as an all-white school in 1970 by the board of a whites-only, Christians-only junior college. Click on this link to your: Lake Highland Preparatory School - Wikipedia, Wiki page continues with extensive detail under the History tab to infer that since the previous school on this campus was a segregated private college (Orlando Junior College or OJC) then Lake Highland Prep must have followed the pattern of a “segregation academy.” Not true!
Let’s clear up Orlando Junior Colleges (OJC) relationship to the founding of LHPS. LHP’s founders purchased OJC for the sole purpose of obtaining the property to start a new school. OJC and LHPS were totally separate entities. LHPS is its own non-profit with by-laws and a mission statement that have maintained the same nonracially biased integrity from the very beginning.
One can only assume that Lake Highland provided the detailed information published on Wikipedia. The same school that wrote in President Harms March 25, 2021, letter: “Although many leaders of OJC were responsible for founding LHP, we found no definitive documents that indicated discrimination in either LHP’s establishment, its inaugural administrative policies, or its admission process.” While other top ten schools applaud their founders, Lake Highland denigrates theirs. What is the purpose of exposing unsubstantiated theories about the establishment of your school if not to discredit its foundation and vilify previous leaders to justify current doctrines?
For over fifty years, Lake Highland has grown and prospered. It wasn’t until interim-president Alfred Harms (2017-2022), that the school embraced the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) ideology of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The DEI Department at Lake Highland has grown from a single director to four people including an administrative assistant to the director, a Middle School Division Coordinator, and an Upper School Division Coordinator. The latter two are also teachers. All these workers to ensure diversity at a diverse school with no history of racial bias is a misuse of valuable resources.
It is well and good that our school continues to evolve, and we talk about and teach our students about prejudice and racism. Schools have been doing this for years and each generation improves in their acceptance of others. We should all be judged by the content of our character. The ideology of classifying people by their identities and then using those classifications to be diverse, equitable and inclusive is as prejudiced and racist as the intolerance DEI purports to correct.
Lake Highland must get back to the founding principles and established practices that contributed to its long-term success. The changes made during COVID do not move the school forward, rather they indoctrinate our students with identity ideology and reduce the number of parents that want to send their children to Lake Highland. The recent changes in the school’s procedures including DEI and its association with the NAIS need to be removed.
For more information on NAIS clink on this link: News Blogs | LHPS Watch