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November 17, 2016

Wolf administration develops 'response plan' for schools handling racist incidents

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced his administration has developed a response plan for schools to follow during incidents involving racism or religious intolerance.

The plan directs school districts to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Office of Safe Schools, which can provide school counselors, and work with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to determine if any additional resources are needed.

The plan, announced Thursday, comes after several school districts reported incidents of racism earlier this month. Among those schools was Council Rock North in Bucks County, where students discovered swastikas drawn in several bathrooms, including one with a deragatory remark about gay people.

In York County, Wolf's home county, two students at York County School of Technology held a Donald Trump sign in a hallway as someone shouted "white Power," an incident captured on video and shared online. Several students were suspended.

At Southern Lehigh High School in Lehigh County, students shouted gay and racial slurs in the hallways, performed heil Hitler salutes and called black students "cottonpickers," according to school officials.

Under Wolf's response plan, Pennsylvania State Police will continue to monitor threats and take appropriate action to support victims and other law enforcement agencies.

“We need to fight racism and bigotry when it arises and my administration will work actively with school districts and other public institutions to stand up to intolerance,” Wolf said in a statement. “Our schools must be safe and open spaces where all children can learn and grow free of concerns for their physical, mental, and emotional safety.”

The plan was developed under the guidance of Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and with assistance from the PHRC, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, mid-Atlantic Equity Center, intermediate units around the state, Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network and law enforcement officials.