About 50 parents and residents turned out last night for a meeting with the Council Rock School District superintendent to discuss racist and other offensive graffiti that were found at Council Rock North High School last week. They also talked about a note put in the bag of a Latino student telling her to go back to Mexico.
The school district in Bucks County held the first of two meetings Monday night to listen to residents weigh in about swastikas and an anti-gay slur that were found written on bathroom walls at one high school. They also heard residents talk about racially-charged incidents dating back years, even decades in the district.
Goldie Cohen’s daughter graduated from the Council Rock School District in 2003. She says she is very upset over the recent events and sees the harassment as the result of campaign rhetoric and the attitudes of other parents.
“I’m embarrassed to be living in the Council Rock School District amidst this activity,” she said.
Jaime Godwin graduated from Council Rock in 1995, and her daughter is currently a junior. She says issues surrounding race are not new and she is happy the district is finally taking steps to address them.
“I do not expect to change people’s minds and I don’t expect to change what goes on in their home when their doors are closed and what they teach their children. We can only try our best to do what’s right and we can only try our best to enlighten people,” she said.
Gail Evans’ family goes back six generations in Newtown and was happy with the meeting.
“This evening was an opportunity for the parents to express their concerns, about what happened last week,” she said. “Now we’re looking to moving on, but moving on with an action plan — not becoming complacent about what we see, but taking ownership of it and working as a community to solve the issue.”
Besides having kids in the district, Evans is also on the board of the Peace Center in Langhorne, which along with the Anti-Defamation League was invited by the district to be part of the conversations.
Many leaving the meeting echoed that sentiment, but WHYY and other media organizations could not report on it directly because they were locked out from attending the public meeting.
Bill Heinemann of Newtown says he’s optimistic the community and school can respond properly, but he’s concerned with the overall climate in the country right now.
“There is so much more intolerance and hatred being expressed in this country, and I think we all have to start addressing it every chance we get,” he said, “particularly public schools are going to be a very important place for that to happen.”
Council Rock Superintendent Robert Fraser says he chose to keep reporters out to make sure people felt comfortable to speak freely.
He says he asked those in attendance at the end if they wanted to change the policy for the next meeting tonight. “‘Do you or do you not want to let the media in?’ and the answer to that question was ‘no'” he said. “Because they recognized the value of not having the media here, because it did accomplish the goal of authentic conversation.”
Fraser says the district have been holding assemblies for all high school students to address the racially-charged incidents. He says investigations into who is responsible continue.