Screenshot from Haverford School Board Video

Report on Racism in Philly Suburb School District Causes White Officials to Get Defensive

After a report was released detailing racist incidents in the Haverford, Pa., school district and town, leadership in one of the most affluent regions in the country, with a predominantly white population, decided that diversity is not a priority.

Maureen Reusche, the superintendent of the Haverford Township school district said the district doesn’t need to hire a chief diversity officer — one of the main recommendations from the Haverford Community Action Network (H-CAN) report — because an employee has taken on that task, and the priority was to hire more mental-health and guidance staff.

At a community meeting on Wednesday, Reusche said she was hurt and angered because the report depicted “a few allegations” as a false sense of pervasive discrimination.

“It’s mixed feelings for me — sadness that someone would experience that, but a little bit of anger that doesn’t characterize our entire system,” she said.

“She told us that was more important than diversity — she doesn’t seem to understand that these experiences matter,” said Khalilah Carmichael, a Black township resident who works in health-care information technology.

The incidents from the report include:

Racial slurs etched into a sidewalk in 2015; a young boy being called a racial slur in May 2017 as he rode his bike near Haverford Middle School; an immigrant family being photographed in October 2017 and the photo shared on social media falsely describing them as child abductors; a student being called a “terrorist,” an African American student being called a “cave man,” and reinforcement of stereotypes of Mexicans; “ongoing experiences of overt and unconscious biases in the curriculum and from teaching staff and school officials” and lack of response.

Hire mental health professionals to help students deal with racism — not find a way to eradicate the unequal treatment of students of color

District officials defended themselves against the report’s facts by distributing a 27-point flier at the town hall listing various inclusion initiatives, saying they were boosting minority hiring by participating in diversity job fairs and working with consultants to train staff. The consultants teaching “racial empowerment” and “cultural diversity” are from the white led Villanova and University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, the report showed racial profiling of Black drivers by Haverford Township Police. Twenty-nine percent of people pulled over for traffic violations in Haverford Township are Black. H-CAN then compared that number to the percentage of Black residents in the township (3.3 percent) and Delaware County (21 percent).

Police Chief John Viola agreed with the statistics but said the study didn’t look at who was driving through town. He presented no data to back up his claim.

Wadiya Ferguson’s family has been racially profiled, including a time where the FBI came to their home because someone at school said her son sympathized with terrorists. She said Black boys are singled out for bad behavior: “Every time something happens, it’s not the white kid who gets it. It’s the Black kid,” said Ferguson.

Her friend, Emily Bailey, is moving out of the district before her son reaches high school and says the experience is the worst, living in the Haverford area than she has in more racially mixed communities.

“It’s definitely disproportionate in this particular township,” said Bailey.

The report’s recommendations included diverse hiring, district-wide programs or longer-term trainings, hiring a D&I coordinator, expanding the Inclusivity Committee and conducting a district-wide audit on diversity, perceptions of school culture and safety, and reporting and responsiveness to bias incidents.

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