Three weeks ago, American voters chose Donald Trump to be their next president.
Since then, at least three racist incidents have taken place in the Mt. Lebanon School District. Mt. Lebanon is about six miles south of Pittsburgh; it is the community in which my family and I have called home for more than 11 years. I cannot recall any similar racist insults in the time I’ve lived here.
Over the past three weeks, a couple students on a school bus began chanting “build the wall.” I don’t know the full list of students who overheard what was said, but I do know there was at least one student who can trace part of his ancestry to Asia.
Shortly after that, two parents told me that a “KATJ” (Kill All the Jews) club was being formed. According to one of the parents, one student asked another student if he wanted to join, not knowing that the invited student was Jewish.
Earlier today, a photograph showing the “N” word written on a football tackling dummy began circulating. (I have access to the photograph and have deliberately chosen not to include it in this post.)
This afternoon, the following email was sent to all parents who have children in the school district:
To All Members of the Mt. Lebanon School Community,
The Mt. Lebanon School District prides itself on being an inclusive and accepting school community. We value that our schools include students and families from many different backgrounds. Our faculty, staff and administration are dedicated to fostering learning for all students in a respectful and safe environment. We are aware and have responded to several incidents, in and around our schools, that are in conflict with these ideals.
Rest assured that the administration, fully supported by the Board of School Directors, has zero tolerance for this type of behavior. As is the standard of practice, the administration will immediately investigate any incident that is inappropriate, discriminatory, or intimidating in nature that occurs on school grounds. Any response will be educational, and as appropriate, disciplinary.
We appreciate your support in our efforts to advance inclusive schools where each and every child thrives. Please continue to notify your child’s teacher or principal if you are made aware of any issue that may create a non-inclusionary atmosphere. If you wish to discuss these issues further, please contact your school counselor, principal, or superintendent.
Everyone is welcomed and valued in the Mt. Lebanon School District.
Timothy J. Steinhauer, Ed.D. Lawrence M. Lebowitz
Superintendent of Schools President, Board of School Directors
For what it’s worth, I began a conversation today with my state representative, who saw (and supports) the recent public display of support for religious and cultural diversity close to 50 people in my community took part in. That effort also drew the attention of our weekly newspaper.
I reiterate here what I wrote in my recent post:
We do not see ourselves as Muslims, Jews or Christians, but, rather, as good people.
We appreciate our ancestries that can be traced to South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, but we say proudly that those geographic disparities are celebrated and honored.
We have each other’s back, to borrow a cliche, and we will not tolerate any hateful word or action directed at any of us.