Shen Superintendent Addressing Recent Racist, Islamophobic Incidents

Shenendehowa school district officials say some students have been heard saying racist and/or Islamophobic phrases to other students.

Some examples provided by Dr. L. Oliver Robinson, the district superintendent: " 'Hey, you're Mexican; we're going to deport you,' or 'all hail Trump,' or 'we're going to build a wall,' or to Muslim kids, 'hey, all you Muslims are killers."

The alleged inflammatory language caused Robinson to send a letter to parents on Monday. 

"I think it's my responsibility to try and send a message to parents, saying 'I need your help,'" Robinson said. If you read my letter very carefully, I'm asking parents 'I need your help so students can understand better the dynamics of what's happening.' "

Robinson says he's been informed of a number of students using racist and anti-Muslim language over the past several days. He says the incidents have seemingly been emboldened by Donald Trump's election to the presidency.

"My concern is not politics; I don't care who people vote for or don't vote for," Robinson said. "My concern is how do we ensure that we have a school community that every single child can come to every day and not fearful of, will they be deported? Will they be criticized?"

Parents have mixed reactions to the letter on the school's Facebook page. One comment reads "thank you Dr. Robinson for his leadership and for taking a strong stand on this issue!" But another says in part "if you're looking to spread a hopeful message... maybe you shouldn't have such a strong political bias when doing it."

Robinson says he believes the students are just mimicking language used by adults. His goal is to create a safe and inclusive environment for all students. 

"My focus is to be proactive, so we won't find ourselves here doing a press conference because of something heinous happening within our school community," he said.

No student has faced disciplinary action. But Robinson hopes the letter will start a dialogue between parents and children about respecting others and being resilient when faced with bigotry.

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