Students Cheer Jackson Confirmation After Republican Objections About GDS

Seniors react to Jackson’s confirmation. Photos by Reid Alexander.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, an appeals court judge and GDS trustee, was confirmed by the Senate on April 7 to become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, drawing cheers and applause from an animated crowd of high school students and faculty who gathered spontaneously in the Forum to watch the Senate’s 53–47 vote being finalized and announced.

Jackson’s confirmation, backed by three Republican senators and all 50 Democrats, came after a partisan process in which some Republicans and right-wing media outlets stridently attacked President Joe Biden’s nominee for, among other objections, her affiliation with GDS, in an effort to associate her with culture-war stances they oppose.

When she assumes Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the Court at the end of its term this summer, Jackson will continue a line of justices who sent children to GDS—namely, Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The news of Jackson’s confirmation delighted the school community. Over a hundred students and teachers amassed in the Forum, many remaining there even as eighth-period classes began, to witness the historic moment formally unfold. Live footage from the Senate was projected on the Forum’s large screen. Chants of “GDS” emanated from the senior corner, and some students recorded the scene on their phones.

“It was wonderful to see the GDS community come together in support of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation,” senior Annabel Williams said in an interview.

Those gathered in the Forum waited as the final announcement was delayed by Senator Rand Paul’s late arrival to the roll-call vote. Quinn Killy, the assistant principal for school life, stood up to say he was checking how long the proceedings were expected to last.

Five minutes later, when Vice President Kamala Harris read the outcome of the vote, the Forum hushed, then erupted in claps and joyous shouts. Democrats in the Senate reacted similarly as the Republican side of the chamber emptied.

Freshman Khari Bell told the Bit he arrived late to his graphic design class because he was watching the vote from above the Forum—only to find the Senate livestream playing in the classroom, too.

Footage from the Senate was projected on the Forum’s large screen.

Bell said he was hopeful that Jackson’s presence on the Court could help counter racist stigmas about Black people. “It’s very refreshing to see African Americans in places of power, especially in such historic moments,” he said.

Mo Elleithee, a GDS parent and former Democratic strategist who is the executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, said in a phone interview with the Bit that Jackson “has shattered a pretty significant glass ceiling.” He added, “She will bring a perspective to the Court that has never been brought before.”

Jackson will not, however, be the first justice to have served on the GDS Board, a designation that belongs to Marshall, who was also the first Black justice. Jackson—whose daughter, Leila, is a senior—joined the Board in 2019. Though the justice-designate remains on the Board’s webpage, Head of School Russell Shaw told the Bit in February he anticipates she will step down.

In Judiciary Committee hearings during the week of March 21, two Republican senators brought up Jackson’s service on the GDS Board, seeking to tie her to the school’s progressive values and what they called “critical race theory.”

Elleithee, a Fox News contributor, said the attacks were never meant to “derail” her confirmation.

“It was a strategy designed to stoke the fear and anger that is too pervasive in our politics today,” he said, as well as to energize Republican voters ahead of the midterm elections in the fall. “While opponents of hers were trying to make GDS a bit of a boogeyman, what it also did was highlight for everybody else the kind of social justice education that the school is known for.”

Bell said he thought some students were especially excited about Jackson’s confirmation because of the criticism of GDS. “After all that slander,” he said, “I feel like it’s a final triumph.”

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