WCASD to address race issues
Supt. Jim Scanlon said staffers will meet with students to discuss race
“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