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Black Lives Matter marchers take stand against York Catholic policies

Ron Musselman
York Dispatch

Nearly 100 people turned out Saturday in support of a recent York Catholic High School graduate who was asked to remove his Black Lives Matter mask prior to his graduation ceremony last month.

Those in attendance at the York Catholic BLM March supporting Dean Holmes included community members as well York Catholic students and alumni.

More:Parents allege discrimination at York Catholic over Black Lives Matter mask

A Facebook post from June Holmes Saturday highlighted an incident at York College prior to graduation the previous Tuesday. Holmes said her son, Dean, was told to remove his Black Lives Matter face mask.

Holmes said Saturday he felt wronged by the school after York Catholic Principal Katie Seufert pulled him out of the graduation line and made him remove his mask prior to the ceremony July 28 at St. Joseph Church in Springettsbury Township.

“It was not good,” said Holmes, 18, who will attend New York University this fall. “My message to the school is, ‘Please don’t don’t do this to anyone else. Please take care of your Black students.'

”They cannot go forward and not make any changes. That would be unacceptable.”

The school said in a statement that it gave each student a face shield and that masks could also be worn, if they had been approved in advance. The Holmes family disputed the school’s stance.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich was among those who supported Holmes on Saturday. Helfrich carried a sign that read, “Do better, YCHS!”

“This is about people being treated differently,” Helfrich said. “It’s unacceptable. They’ve just got to do better. I’m not making any claims against York Catholic. This is probably just bad judgment.”

Philip Given, front left, who is acting director of economic and community development for the City of York, and York City Mayor Michael Helfrich join about 100 community members during the York Catholic BLM March near the school in York City, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The hourlong march started at noon as the group made the short walk from Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing and Peace Garden in York City and stopped in front of the high school a few blocks away, then reversed direction. 

A handful of people participating in the march spoke of racism issues at York Catholic.

“What York Catholic needs to do is level out the playing field,” said Milli Kearse, a 2019 graduate. “It’s not level right now."

When reached by email Saturday, Seufert declined to answer a question about the allegations of racism leveled against York Catholic. She instead referenced a letter that was posted Aug. 12 on the school’s website.

Dean Holmes walks to St. Joseph Church in Springettsbury Township, where the York Catholic High School graduation took place Tuesday, July, 28, 2020. He was asked to remove his mask, which touted Black Lives Matter. Bill Kalina photo

“Over the last week, we have been in contact and spoken with several members of our community, and we have listened a great deal,” the letter said. “We have communicated with a representative of the York Catholic African-American Alumni Association and look forward to our continued discussions with their organization. Those discussions will involve our continued commitment to listen.”

At Saturday's march, John Holmes, Dean Holmes’ father, said he is seeking equal treatment for students of all races going forward.

“When you don’t have an administration who understands that, it’s time for them to go in 2020,” he said. “If you don’t have a board of directors that understands that, it’s time for a new board to be elected.

“We won’t stop today. We won’t stop next year. We won’t stop until it ends.”

Tzipporah Goins, who will be a senior at Logos Academy in York City this fall, was one of the hosts of the event. She previously served as a co-organizer of a peaceful protest regarding the death of George Floyd and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement that attracted more than 1,000 people on June 2 in York City. 

Goins said she didn’t know Dean Holmes very well before the event but was on hand for the march to offer her support.

“I think a lot of religious schools tend to turn a blind eye to things,” she said. “There’s a lot that needs to change at York Catholic. It’s just not this incident. It opened up this can of worms. This situation was not the first. It was one of many. 

“I believe schools should stand with Black Lives Matter, especially if you want your Black students to prosper. I stand with Dean.”

— Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @ronmusselman8.