In a letter to the school board, Upper Adams School District (UASD) Superintendent Wesley Doll summarized actions the district is taking in response to incidents of alleged racism at Biglerville High School.
The alleged incidents have been made public on a Facebook page.
The following is the complete text of Doll’s statement:
“I know that important and necessary conversations are occurring in our community regarding alleged experiences that are very disheartening to all of us.
Every student, of every background, is at the heart of our purpose and mission every day in the Upper Adams School District. I know I speak for our entire board, administration and staff when I say that we are deeply saddened by the stories being shared and that we are fully committed to listening to our students, parents and community to identify and address any and all confirmed cases of racist behavior, discrimination and bullying.
For those of you that may not be aware, on January 21st, a series of anonymous social media accounts were launched stating claims of racist behavior that may have taken place in our schools. Our team immediately began monitoring the situation and working to engage the community, including the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, state racism experts, who have agreed to advise on our efforts in addressing alleged racism and discrimination.
Our efforts to date have included communicating to the public the importance of reporting any concerns or experiences through the statewide Safe2Say Something website at Safe2SayPA.org, which allows for anonymous reporting, or through filing a complaint under our nondiscrimination policy, Policy #103, found on our district’s website.
I want to affirm that our administration, staff and entire school district does not tolerate nor condone any racist or discriminatory behavior. Our student’s safety, voice, and success are our highest priority. The stories shared online are not reflective of our district’s values of inclusivity and respect, which makes reading the information online so disheartening.
To date, we have received alleged reports through the Safe2Say Something system, however no formal complaints have been filed through the district nondiscrimination policy, which limits us in how we are able to respond to the needs of our students.
We want to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks due to lack of formal reporting. And we ask that all concerns are reported to ensure that we are able to immediately and appropriately respond. Please use the state’s anonymous Safe2Say Something system which may be accessed at Safe2SayPA.org.
Our team takes this matter with great seriousness. And we also understand the importance of listening to all concerns so that we may assess and implement necessary improvements that advance our district and community for every student. We are fully committed and focused on our students’ ability to thrive in a positive learning environment free from racism, discrimination and bullying.
There are many questions that we are working to provide more information on and will share updates as possible.
We have announced that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, also known as the PHRC, will provide Unconscious Bias Training for school faculty, staff and administrators at no cost to the School District.
In addition, PHRC is providing recommendations and a diverse panel of experts to work with the School District, including Biglerville High School staff, on an ongoing basis with regularly scheduled sessions over the next few years to ensure that the school leadership is actively working to create a culturally relevant environment to affect meaningful change.
Additionally, PHRC recommends that the School District administrators work collaboratively with the Adams County PHRC Advisory Council to open a conversation and conduct training in the community. PHRC will also help to facilitate an open forum to provide a brave space for therapeutic healing for all of those affected by this situation.
As the Superintendent, I am focusing all of my attention on this matter and take this very personally. I care about every student’s success and want every student to thrive in our district.
I expect to share more updates with our board, parents, students, staff and community as we develop a comprehensive plan of action to address these reports of alleged racism and discrimination.
I encourage anyone with questions to contact me by reaching out to my Executive Assistant, Candy Bretzman via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 717-677-7191, ext. 2751.
I’m glad to hear this. It’s important that the PHRC remain involved and guide the process. Unconscious bias training is a great step toward bringing hurtful language and actions into the light of learning and personal growth.
Like Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”
It takes courage to dive deep into the unconscious biases that drive unkind behaviors. It is my hope that this process leads to better lives for everyone in Upper Adams, leading the children of the district to go out into the world with eyes of justice for all.
Deb Collins, MSW