Dear Students, Staff, and Parents,
Schools in the Lehigh Valley and across the state have reported a recent increase in racial incidents. During the last few weeks leading up to the holiday break, we have also seen more incidents of this nature at Emmaus High School. A few weeks back, a student inscribed a swastika and the n-word on a bus window. There have been other incidents reported of students using racial slurs and racially-charged language. The district denounces any use of symbols or language that has overtones of racial intimidation or harassment. All reported incidents have been fully investigated and serious disciplinary consequences have been invoked for the guilty parties.
But the problem does not go away with punishment. Emmaus High School is certainly not a racist school and the vast majority of EHS students are accepting, tolerant, and kind. I recently had the pleasure of talking about this issue with 25 Emmaus High School student leaders. They find this type of behavior despicable and unacceptable. We all agreed that in order to eliminate racism, students, staff, and parents must confront racist behavior by recognizing it, discussing it, and doing everything in their power to stop it. Punishing a few students certainly sends the message that there is a consequence for exhibiting racist behavior, but doing that alone is not enough.
So I ask students, staff, and parents to talk about this issue. Why is drawing a swastika inappropriate? Because it is a symbol from the past displayed by those who killed 6 million Jews. Why is use of the n-word so offensive? Because it is a word from the past used to demean African Americans as they suffered dehumanizing acts of discrimination. If you hear someone using a racial slur, call him/her on it. If you see someone being racially harassed or intimidated, report it to an administrator. If you’re in the company of someone making a racist joke, tell them you don’t find it humorous and walk away. Let’s make this an active conversation in our classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, and homes, with the clear goal of eradicating any and all forms of racism from our school.
At EHS, we are responsible for our own behavior, but we also share responsibility for each other’s well-being. I ask that we all do our part to address and reject racism in our school and in our community.
Dr. Michael Schilder