HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) — Spurred by recent incidents involving racism and religious intolerance in schools, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration released a response plan.
The PA Department of Education sent a message to all superintendents in the state Thursday. It directs school districts to contact the Office of Safe Schools when an incident occurs. Also, the Wolf Administration says Pennsylvania State Police are monitoring threats and prepared to take action, if necessary.
KDKA-TV’s Lisa Washington talked to Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, Ph.D., who says they are being proactive when it comes to intolerance.
On Wednesday, Hamlet sent a message to parents, reminding them that the school district will not tolerate any racism or religious intolerance.
The action by the Wolf Administration follows several recent incidents of racism involving students in Pennsylvania. In a tweet Wednesday, Wolf referenced one in a school district in eastern Pennsylvania.
Our children must feel safe. We won’t accept racist, intimidating behavior at Southern Lehigh High School and other PA schools. -TW
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) November 16, 2016
Other recent incidents involve students in higher education. The University of Pennsylvania says a man sent racist text messages to black Penn freshmen. The university says he had been offered admission in May, which led to him gaining access to a private Facebook group for Penn’s class of 2020. That’s where he got students’ contact information. Officials say the man sent messages referencing lynching and racial slurs through the GroupMe messaging app.
The man never enrolled at Penn. Instead, he decided to enroll at the University of Oklahoma. However, Oklahoma officials say he is no longer enrolled there.
Another incident occurred the day after Election Day at the York County School of Technology. A video posted on Facebook showed two students holding a Donald Trump sign while yelling “white power”.
Gov. Wolf last week condemned the incidents at the York County School of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.
The racist events at @Penn & other PA schools are unacceptable. We will do everything we can to end & prevent these hateful incidents. – TW
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) November 11, 2016
“We need to fight racism and bigotry when it arises and my administration will work actively with school districts and other public institutions to stand up to intolerance,” Wolf said in a statement released Thursday. “Our schools must be safe and open spaces where all children can learn and grow free of concerns for their physical, mental, and emotional safety.”
There haven’t been any confirmed reports of any racist incidents or religious intolerance in Pittsburgh Public Schools, but officials are still gathering information.
Dr. Hamlet said his administrators met earlier this week, to be proactive about addressing any concerns.
“They came together they drafted an email to our social workers letting them know that I was going to come out with a robo (automated) call statement, addressing some of these issues and that we have support for our children throughout social workers and our guidance counselors,” said Dr. Hamlet.
The governor’s plan includes outreach to the state department of education and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
Dr. Hamlet said these resources go hand-in-hand with what he wants provided to staff at Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“Some of those other groups have a skill set in dealing with these issues on a daily basis, so not re-inventing the wheel but bringing everybody to the table who has expertise,” said Dr. Hamlet.
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