York Tech racial incident chronicled in new report

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

York County was the subject of a 4,000-word article that went out to 380,000 Boston Globe subscribers Sunday, and with it came new revelations about tensions within York County School of Technology and York County at large after Donald Trump's surprising election to the presidency.

The story, published online Saturday and on the front page of Sunday’s print edition,  featured a photo of controversial former Spring Grove school board member Matt Jansen with his wife and daughter at their home in New Salem.

Jansen left the school board in August after announcing he would be moving out of the district to a new residence in Dallastown.

Calls for Jansen to resign started in June 2016 after he left a critical voicemail message on the phone of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Dallastown.

In the voicemail, he blasted a sign on the church’s property wishing a “blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors.”

Public comment regarding board member Matt Jansen during the Spring Grove school board meeting at the Educational Service Center in Spring Grove, Monday, March 6, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Jansen called the sign “unbelievable” and “despicable” and called Islam a “godless,” “pagan” religion.

In February, a tweet posted on Jansen’s account in response to a Breitbart article stated, “Well than this wetbacks family should be thrown out of the country.”

The tweet was deleted shortly after it was posted.

Jansen claimed he was hacked at the time of the tweet. 

York Tech: However, The Boston Globe article mostly focused on the Nov. 9, 2016, incident involving students at York County School of Technology holding up a Trump/Pence campaign sign with one student chanting “White power!” in a school hallway.

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The incidents that occurred afterward, including efforts by administrators to move on from the incident, were detailed at length.

“It was a pretty lengthy study of what happened last year,” Jansen said.

He said he met with Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser at White Rose Bar & Grill in York City in early October and wishes he wasn’t quoted saying York County residents are “cunning” people by the reporter.

“He asked me, ‘Can you describe the people of York County?’ and I said ‘cunning’ but then I said ‘cunning is not the right word,’” Jansen said of his conversation with Viser.

“I said, ‘Redact that, please,’ but he must’ve not heard me,” Jansen added.

He said he meant to say that while York residents are respectable and decent, that does not mean that they are void of “clever and analytical” skills.

Equity pushback: The Globe report also details the rocky start equity coordinator Carla Christopher had at the start of her nearly six-month tenure at the school.

Christopher reportedly received pushback on many initiatives she spearheaded, such as the images that were to be hung around the school in February for Black History Month.

York County School of Technology students listen to classmate Gage Denny talk about his suicide attempt during an assembly celebrating Diversity Week, Thursday, May 4, 2017. The assembly included testimonials from students about their experiences as immigrants, attempting suicide, and race issues.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Signs such as a black fist, a Black Lives Matter signs and a poster of slave rebel Nat Turner were all rejected by school administration, according to the Globe report.

“’So what, you basically want us to talk about MLK and Rosa Parks and then sit down and be quiet and be good Negroes?’” Christopher told the Globe's Viser.

The article noted tension between black and white students. A black student interviewed for the story said a fellow student once told her, "I'll lynch you."

MTV reportedly called the school to document the situation for a reality series surrounding the incident, but administrators declined.

The story also notes the reaction of a York Tech parent, Sue Lesley of New Freedom, who was reportedly angry about black student protests at the school following the racist incident.

Carla Christopher thanks students at York County School of Technology during an assembly celebrating Diversity Week, Thursday, May 4, 2017. The assembly included testimonials from students about their experiences as immigrants, attempting suicide, and race issues. Christopher recently resigned her position as the school's equity coordinator. John A. Pavoncello photo


“I was infuriated. They’re enabling the minority to become the majority,” Lesley said of the administrative response to the protests.

York Tech assistant director Scott Rogers pleaded with students to return to their classrooms, according to the Globe.

Lesley said the behavior of minority students and parents is a stark contrast to the reaction from white parents.

“You notice the white parents didn’t throw a fit, because we have higher standards,” Lesley was quoted saying in the report. “I’m sorry but I think the African-American community is looking — they were looking — at Obama to support them. And he was gone.”

The story pointed to a hopeful future at York Tech, noting its May diversity celebration, which was spearheaded by Christopher and the school’s spirit club.

Jansen said he hopes the Globe’s story will spark discussion in the community.

“We need to talk to each other, get to know each other and try to understand where everyone is coming from,” he said.

“A house divided cannot stand.”

Christopher, York Tech Director David Thomas and Rogers did not respond to calls seeking comment.

— Reach education reporter Junior Gonzalez via email at jgonzalez@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @EducationYD.