Central York board members: Racism curriculum fosters socialism, disrespect for police

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Central York High School, Tuesday, April 14, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Two members of the Central York School District school board on Monday panned a proposed curriculum meant to better address racial issues, saying it fails to foster respect for the police and may promote socialism.

Board members Vicki Guth and Veronica Gemma took turns attacking the curriculum pilot, accusing the curriculum and conversations about it among the district's diversity committee of focusing too heavily on issues such as racism and white privilege.

"The references that were made in this committee about teaching tolerance talked about white privilege and white saviorism," Guth said. "So you can’t win. If you’re normal, you’re a white privilege. If you’re trying to change things, you’re doing it out of the savior mentality.”

Guth added that students don't need to deal with those issues, and she was concerned that such topics are why students "want to be socialists" and are growing up in a generation that doesn't respect religious faith or the U.S. in general.

Central York on Tuesday released a statement defending its push for diversity while also distancing the district from the two board members' comments.

"Comments made by individual School Board members during a public meeting regarding these issues are reflective of individual board members’ personal views/ideologies/beliefs and not reflective of the administration of Central York School District, the School Board as a whole or the Central York School District.," the statement read.

School spokesperson Julie Romig on Tuesday said the superintendent would not comment further on the matter.

During the meeting, Gemma questioned whether students were being educated about the value of police officers — a group that has come under nationwide scrutiny after several Black Americans died in police custody.

She later elaborated on her concerns, apparently referencing a recent comment made by a teacher during a diversity committee meeting, saying "reverse racism is still racism."

"One comment that really concerned me, and it was, 'I need to make sure my students aren't racist,'" Gemma said. "And I don't want anyone to assume that little first graders are racist, little second graders are racist."

Gemma's criticisms have "everything do with" who is teaching the curriculum and what their ideals are, she said.

Central York's diversity committee has existed for more than a decade, but it grew this summer and began to meet regularly in response to "events unfolding around us locally and nationally," according to a statement put out by the school, an apparent reference to protests that came in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

The purpose, said assistant superintendent Robert Grove on Monday, was to better prepare a curriculum that allows teachers and students to talk about national issues that have made  headlines over recent months.

"It's not the same world out there, whether it's a pandemic or other events out there that are commanding our collective attention," Grove said. "When our learners come back and they want to engage in the conversations, we want to make sure teachers are equipped with the right curriculum and standards but also the right verbiage and mindset."

The meeting's livestream grabbed the attention of members of the Facebook group "York City black lives matter movement."

The individual who posted the live stream, local activist Rev. Carla Christopher, called the comments "flat out racist." 

The school board is expected to vote Monday on the proposed curriculum pilot.

 — Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Carla Christopher's name.