WCASD to ad­dress race is­sues

Supt. Jim Scanlon said staffers will meet with stu­dents to dis­cuss race

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Ret­tew bret­tew@dai­ly­lo­cal.com

“We want to cre­ate an open di­a­logue with kids so they can say when a stu­dent is go­ing to hurt them­selves or some­body else. We want our stu­dents to be com­fort­able speak­ing with an adult about any po­ten­tial dan­gers.” — Jim Scanlon, WCASD su­per­in­ten­dent

WEST CH­ESTER » The West Ch­ester Area School Dis­trict is tak­ing proac­tive steps to elim­i­nate racial ten­sion in the schools.

In wake of seem­ingly racial threats on Sept. 11, WCASD Su­per­in­ten­dent Jim Scanlon said staffers will con­tinue to meet with stu­dents over the next sev­eral weeks to dis­cuss the is­sue.

“Re­gard­less of your race or racial ex­pe­ri­ence, it is never ac­cept­able to use this lan­guage,” Scanlon wrote Sept. 12 in a let­ter to par­ents.

Scanlon said that ten­sion in the schools is high.

“You could just feel it,” he said dur­ing an in­ter­view.

A 14-year-old male black male stu­dent was charged within 24 hours by po­lice with mak­ing ter­ror­is­tic threats, ha­rass­ment and cy­ber threats af­ter he al­legedly tar­geted fresh­men fel­low stu­dents at West Ch­ester East High School in an In­sta­gram post.

Scanlon re­ferred to stu­dent use of so­cial me­dia as a “game changer.”

“We want to cre­ate an open di­a­logue with kids so they can say when a stu­dent is go­ing to hurt them­selves or some­body else,” Scanlon said. “We want our stu­dents to be com­fort­able speak­ing with an adult about any po­ten­tial dan­gers.”

The best preven­tion is when the school staff hears from stu­dents, Scanlon said.

“They’re in the net­work and know what their friends are say­ing and do­ing,” the su­per­in­ten­dent said.

School staffers are work­ing to es­tab­lish a bet­ter rap­port with stu­dents.

“We want to have pro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tions with our stu­dents and our com­mu­nity,” Scanlon said.

He said meet­ing in small groups leads to richer and deeper dis­cus­sions.

East Prin­ci­pal Dr. Kevin Fa­gan con­tin­ues to meet with stu­dents and will talk with stu­dent lead­ers this week.

Scanlon said he wants stu­dents to know that what they post on the in­ter­net might fol­low them.

“We keep em­pha­siz­ing that any time you post some­thing on so­cial me­dia you’re leav­ing a foot­print,” Scanlon said. “It’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate to put some­one al­legedly in dan­ger.

“They will get tracked down.”

Es­tab­lish­ing a per­ma­nent record can be­come a game changer.

“Po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers Google you for ref­er­ence checks and it could cost you a job,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon wrote that each school sys­tem must re­spond to threats with guid­ance from po­lice, by use of in­ter­nal in­for­ma­tion and learn from ex­pe­ri­ence, along with ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing.

“I have gone through ex­ten­sive train­ing with se­cu­rity and law en­force­ment ex­perts and author­i­ties, and

have years of ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with th­ese kinds of is­sues in large school sys­tems,” Scanlon wrote.

While the schools are a re­flec­tion of so­ci­ety, racism ex­ists in “ev­ery cor­ner” of the com­mu­nity, Scanlon said.

“We must rec­og­nize and ac­knowl­edge racism in or­der to erad­i­cate it,” Scanlon wrote. “We work with our staff in train­ing ses­sions on do­ing ex­actly this rec­og­niz­ing sub­tle racism and un­der­stand­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences of peo­ple of a dif­fer­ent race.”

While the most re­cent threats were a wake-up call for school staffers, WCASD has ad­dressed the is­sue for sev­eral years.

“We work very dili­gently on a daily ba­sis to cre­ate school en­vi­ron­ments that are safe, in­clu­sive, warm, wel­com­ing, sup­port­ing, and that cel­e­brate di­ver­sity,” Scanlon wrote. “We do work to re­move racism.

“But cer­tainly, this is a goal that is big­ger than us. It starts at home.”

“We must rec­og­nize and ac­knowl­edge racism in or­der to erad­i­cate it.” — Jim Scanlon, WCASD su­per­in­ten­dent

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