Racism Allegations Spur Central Pennsylvania School to Work with State to Solve Problems and Start Healing
The Adams County School District located at center of social media outcry against racism students and alumni say they have experienced it and are now working with the state to develop a plan to remedy the situation.
The Upper Adams School District announced today that it is working with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to develop a comprehensive plan to address past and present allegations of discrimination at Biglerville High School.
Several social media pages titled Racism at Biglerville High School was posted online last week, collecting testimonies from students and former students, detailing numerous incidents of racism and fanaticism they say they experienced while attending rural school in the heart of the belt Pennsylvania fruit farm.
Upper Adams Superintendent Wesley Doll said during an interview on Zoom with PennLive Wednesday that the district had not tolerated any of the behaviors described on those social media pages.
“When you start to see some of the items and posts that are posted, it’s very disheartening,” Doll said. “We are committed to creating a welcoming environment for all of our students, free from racism, discrimination or bullying. “
But students who have posted their experiences – and continue to do so – say they feel anything but welcome.
The school hopes to change this by partnering with the commission.
“This community faces an opportunity to emerge from the shadow of hate,” Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission executive director Chad Dion Lassiter said in a press release today. “We met Superintendent Doll and appreciate his willingness to partner with PHRC to immediately put in place a plan to tackle these issues head-on and start the healing process. We encourage students, faculty, and community members to approach this difficult reality from a new perspective, to try to see the humanity of your neighbors, and to look for commonalities rather than differences. We are encouraged by our initial conversations with the administrators of the Upper Adams School District and Biglerville High School and look forward to working with members of this community at all levels.
The commission will provide “unconscious bias training” free of charge to faculty, staff and students. It will also provide recommendations and a diverse panel of experts to work with the district in regular sessions over the next several years with the goal of effecting meaningful change.
The commission also advises continuing work between the school and the Adams County PHRC Advisory Board to initiate a conversation and organize training in the community.
In a statement, Doll said the district is fully committed to listening to students and the community to address confirmed cases of racist behavior, bigotry and bullying and is committed to working with the commission to develop a plan.
On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a statement saying the organization supports the students and alumni who created the social media pages.
“They have done a great service to the community by exposing the ugly belly of racism that they believe has existed in their school for years,” Pennsylvania ACLU executive director Reggie Shuford said in the statement. “This is how healing happens. We will continue to support students and their allies and look forward to hearing more about how the district plans to move forward to create an inclusive and equitable environment at Biglerville High School.
The ACLU said the allegations of racism are serious, that all students have the right to free and equal education, and that it is the school district’s responsibility to respond to these allegations.
“According to students and graduates, the school failed to do this for many years,” Shuford said. “We also want to reiterate that the school must be aware that it cannot punish students for speech that criticizes the school and cannot use its authority to expose the people behind social media sites.”