Amid concerns, ADL issues open letter to Mountain Brook community

Editor’s Note: This letter was released by ADL in response to the controversy last week, where a group of parents petitioned the Mountain Brook School Board to disassociate itself from ADL anti-bias programs.

To the Mountain Brook Schools community,

In a time of soaring antisemitism and hatred across the nation, we are deeply concerned about the Mountain Brook Schools district’s decision to disassociate from the Anti-Defamation League and our education initiatives. Particularly for a city that has had many issues of antisemitism and hatred over the past several years, the district’s intentional and unexplained distancing from ADL — the nation’s leading voice on antisemitism — is very troubling. Furthermore, the treatment of ADL as a partner of the district and a resource to the community has been both disrespectful and lacking transparency and communication.

In response to a serious 2020 antisemitic incident involving its students, Mountain Brook Schools asked ADL for help. The Mountain Brook Diversity Committee then invited ADL to give a presentation on our educational resources in July 2020. This meeting resulted in the Diversity Committee choosing to use ADL’s No Place for Hate education framework and A World of Difference Institute programs for its goal of making MBS students globally responsible and conscious citizens by helping to foster a more welcoming and inclusive school community. We are leaving Mountain Brook Schools with no indication that the issues of antisemitism in the community are being addressed. Indeed, they feel worse.

In this school district and from people concerned about their children learning about diversity and standing up to hatred, we have heard a series of frightening concerns within the community about the school district’s ability to handle hatred against Jews, LGBTQ+ people, and discussions about race and racism. These unaddressed concerns have left many residents feeling insecure and even scared.

In these challenging times, ignoring our differences and avoiding hard conversations about them is antithetical to preparing Mountain Brook students to live in an ever-changing and more diverse society. Mountain Brooks Schools’ failure to consider implementing anti-bias education in schools could serve to allow antisemitism and other forms of hatred to fester in the school community.

For these families, we want to state emphatically and clearly: we are here for you. We will continue to do our best to fight for your safety and protection, so that you can continue to believe in the possibility of living in a world without hate.

We have also heard much confusion and misinformation about who is ADL and what our education initiatives actually do. So let us clarify: ADL is a nonpartisan anti-hate and civil rights non-profit organization with a mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment to all.” ADL was founded over a century ago in response to an escalating climate of antisemitism and bigotry.

Today, ADL is the first call when acts of antisemitism occur, and continues to fight all forms of hate. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online, ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate. ADL believes in the power of inclusion and uniting people from diverse groups — because we are stronger together than when we are apart.

ADL’s Education department works to assist educators and students in understanding and challenging bias and building ally behaviors. No Place for Hate, our flexible education framework, has been successfully implemented in over 1,600 schools across the nation alone reaching 1.4 million students and over 100,100 educators. ADL’s A World of Difference Institute programs recognize that attitudes and beliefs affect actions, and that each of us can have an impact on others, and ultimately, on the world in which we live. Over the last year, ADL has collaborated with Mountain Brook School district administration to customize agendas, activities and language best suited for the needs of Mountain Brook educators and students.

ADL’s education initiatives have helped thousands of schools across the country build positive, productive school cultures where children feel safe and encouraged to learn. We remain concerned that MBS families will no longer benefit from this kind of initiative, especially seeing as it is a district in great need.

Mountain Brook families, ADL will remain vigilant on issues of antisemitism, bigotry, and hatred in Mountain Brook and beyond. We are here for you and hope to continue to be your partner in fighting antisemitism and hatred. You are not alone.


Allison Padilla-Goodman

ADL VP, Southern Division