Wolf: Safe Schools plan developed after racist incidents

Alyssa Pressler
  • The governor has created a plan for schools that experience incidents involving racism.
  • School districts will work with the Office of Safe Schools to obtain counselors for students.

Gov. Tom Wolf has announced the development of a response plan after several racially charged incidents have occurred at schools throughout the state and York County.

The plan includes outreach from the Pennsylvania Department of Education Safe Schools office and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Community members and students come together to draw awareness to alleged racial bullying at York County School of Technology, Friday, November 11, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Schools throughout the state have reported increased incidents of bullying and racial harassment in the wake of the election. York County School of Technology is one local example. On Nov. 9, a video was taken of students marching through the hallway with a Donald Trump sign, while one student shouted "white power." The video sparked outrage, and other students came forward with complaints of harassment.

Crisis team to be on-site at Vo-Tech Friday after reports of harassment

In response to such incidents, the Wolf administration has instructed school districts to contact the Office of Safe Schools if anything involving racism or religious intolerance occurs.

According to a news release from Wolf's office, the Office of Safe Schools will work with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to send resources such as counselors and determine if more support is needed.

Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera met with representatives from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mid-Atlantic Equity Center, Intermediate Units, Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and law-enforcement officials to develop the plan.

“Schools must be safe and welcoming for all students, and no student should ever be made to feel that they are not a valued member of the school community,” Rivera said in the release. “Our schools must work diligently to create and maintain safe and supportive climates that celebrate diversity and teach students the importance of respect for self and others. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is joining Gov. Wolf in condemning recent acts of bigotry and intolerance that have occurred on school campuses in Pennsylvania and around the country.”

According to the news release, the PDE also will be working with nonprofits to get feedback and develop plans that hope to prevent future incidents. The department's Office of Commonwealth Libraries has created a list of books for organizations and schools that specifically focus on unity, acting with kindness toward others and promoting peace.

The PHRC upholds anti-discrimination laws and has a goal of reducing racial tension in Pennsylvania. The Office for Safe Schools coordinates school safety programs and provides professional development related to crisis intervention, school police training, violence prevention and social/emotional wellness.

The Office for Safe Schools has a Bullying Prevention Consultation Line, a toll-free number that allows people experiencing bullying to discuss strategies. The line also points people toward local resources available to them. The number for the line is 866-716-0424.

“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 the release. “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.”