Increase Diversity and Inclusion in the Hanover Public School District (Hanover, PA)

Increase Diversity and Inclusion in the Hanover Public School District (Hanover, PA)

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To our Hanover Public School District community, current students, alumni, parents, staff, former teachers, administrators, local tax payers and all those who care about education, equality and justice. We encourage you to sign this petition in support of expanding the Diversity and Inclusion efforts in our school district.

We are proud of the students, educators and education the District offers, but understand there is always the ability to improve and make it even stronger. With many issues, education and resources dealing with racial injustice being brought to light, we felt as though we must do our part.

17 years of student leaders have come together to reach out to the HPSD Administration and Board, initially in the form of a letter (see below). We hope that this will begin a dialogue that will lead to plans, action and further institutional change.

We hope you agree with us and will sign this petition in support. If you feel comfortable, please include your affiliation with Hanover when you sign and we encourage you to leave a comment at the bottom of this petition as to why you signed. Also, feel free to fill out this quick survey about the petition where you can also reach out with any comments or questions: https://forms.gle/RRXyPfsMVYTsKeYY7

Letter:

Dr. John Scola, Dr. Susan Seiple, The Hanover Public School District Administration & Members of the Hanover Area School Board:

I and the leadership from the Hanover High School Classes of 2007-2023 are writing to you to address some critical issues that are important to us and we believe should be important to the District and community.

We would like to begin with making it clear that we denounce racism and all forms of discrimination – within the alumni community, throughout the Hanover Public School District and in all areas of life.

We believe in the power of diversity and know that it makes us stronger. To our Black, African American, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and POC community members: we see you, we acknowledge the deep and unique pain you experience and we stand with you.

To the Hanover Public School District Administration and School Board, we believe the time is now. My fellow alumni and I believe that the change we need begins with education – an area in which the public education system plays a critical role.

As proud alumni and current students, we support the HPSD mission statement in its commitment “to excellence in education by nurturing, challenging, and inspiring ALL students to achieve their full potential and to become productive citizens in a global community.” This mission cannot be fulfilled without re-examining how we honor and teach Black, African American, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and POC history in our education system – in elementary, middle and high school and across curricula. It also cannot be fulfilled without reassessing the support and perspective available to our students and faculty across these groups.

We call upon the Hanover Public School District Administration and Board to take (at minimum) the actions outlined in the following 3 categories: 

1. Acknowledgement

Issue a Statement.
Although this might sound trivial, the HPSD Administration and School Board have yet to issue any public statements in regards to recent events. HPSD is not immune to racism, discrimination, prejudice or hate. There have been incidents within the HPSD and accountability must be taken.

As MLK Jr. once said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” The Board, Administration and District cannot remain silent. The statement must include the following:

  • Denounce ALL forms of racism and discrimination.
  • Make it clear that the HPSD has zero tolerance for hate.
  • Take responsibility for the complicity within the education field and former racist, prejudice and discriminatory practices.
  • Acknowledgement of the historical and present-day struggles of Black, African American, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and POC people in the U.S.

We believe that such statements cannot be limited to platitudes calling for equality and justice, but must be proven with further action and implemented policy…

 

2. Anti-racist Curriculums
This must be implemented at all levels of education, beginning with our youth in elementary school. This also must be implemented extensively and across disciplines.

We highly recommend this resource created by David J. Johns, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA): https://sites.ed.gov/whieeaa/files/2016/10/Disrupting-Implicit-Bias-FINAL.pdf

Expanding Representation
The power of representation is vital. The current curriculums ignore much of Black, African American, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and POC minority history. 

Many of Hanover’s courses teach about large historical well-known events but often glaze over or entirely omit moments of racial injustice and American shortcomings. These lessons focus on a one-sided, whitewashed view of U.S. history and fail to acknowledge that racism is systemic – built into systems that still exist today. They brush over the enslavement of Black people that continued long past the Emancipation Proclamation, the violent and forced migrations of Indigenous people, the internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, the exclusion of Chinese immigrants and other historical events that cast the U.S. government and white Americans in an unfavorable light.

When learning about the Oregon Trail we must also learn that in 1844 a series of laws began prohibiting Black Americans from moving into the area. When learning about the passing of the 13th Amendment we must include the details of the loophole that allowed slavery through incarceration – thus contributing to the mass incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex. When learning about the Emancipation Proclamation it is crucial to detail that this took over two and a half years to fully reach all of the states which culminated in Juneteenth. We teach about Jim Crow laws but not nearly enough about other, more systemic forms of racism and oppression that laid the foundation for what the country has been experiencing, especially prevalent today. 

History must include how the effects of racist policy and events still impact today’s society. Such as how the Black Panthers’ and Black Power movement during the Civil Rights Movement has contributed to the present-day Black Lives Matter movement. Including the federal and local exclusionary policies that uphold this system — such as gerrymandering, redlining, school segregation, under-funded social services and other forms of economic and racial exclusion — is essential to any modern education, as the effects of these policies are still alive and felt today in our communities. Additionally, by refusing to acknowledge our long history and existing prevalence of racially motivated gerrymandering and race-based voter suppression, we are failing to teach our students the long-lasting consequences of our history and how these continue to pose a threat to our society and democracy today.

Race, gender, sexuality and class are intricately interconnected systems so intersectionality must not be omitted in telling the story. Learning about historical figures like Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Dubois and Shirley Chishom when studying the women’s rights movement and including how the LGBTQ+ fight for equal rights began with the Stonewall riots led by trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor are these changes limited to history courses but across curricula.

English courses must include the countless POC authors and their contributions to the canon of American and English literature. Reading, analyzing, and discussing work by diverse authors would benefit students of color through reading books that relate to their lived experiences and identities, white students would also benefit from learning about experiences different from their own and all students would be provided a greater understanding of various cultures, histories and stories. For students to graduate having read mostly white-authored, white-centered literature is a failure on the behalf of the District. 

Spanish classes could include a unit on Latinx history in America. Science classes could educate on racial bias within the sciences and acknowledge the accomplishments of Black, African American, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and POC scientists within their respective fields. Technology courses could include shortcomings such as facial recognition racial biases. Economics courses can discuss disparities between racial groups in America. Health courses can explain how racial bias has caused unequal healthcare treatment. Although some teachers may already address these topics, there needs to be a commitment that they will be thoroughly addressed within the curriculum and applied across the board. – Again, this is a non-exhaustive list.

Accurate Portrayal – Decolonizing History
We must critically challenge how we frame our nation’s history. Oftentimes our teachings of our country’s history lack unsavory but important details leading to less than accurate portrayals. For example, when learning about MLK we often romanticize how he was treated. While he is now rightfully viewed as a beloved and influential Civil Rights activist, during his involvement in the movement for equality he was largely hated by the American people and on the FBI’s most wanted list. In reverse, many historical figures like Columbus – who killed many indigenous tribes – are portrayed as heroes. We forget to mention the slaves owned by founders and presidents and many other details about America’s problematic past. The accuracy in framing and importance of details and nuance must be included and taught so that the youth of America grow up learning from these wrongdoings and striving to be better.

This implementation must take deliberate action as well as vigilance among the educators. Attention to the framing must be present from the textbooks chosen for purchase to the full messaging behind films shown and books on reading lists (for example: ensuring the problematic nature of the White Savior trope is explained when teaching To Kill A Mockingbird, The Joy Luck Club, and/or Their Eyes Were Watching God.). This accuracy must also be applied to the tools our educators use as well, such as ensuring we have maps that present proper ratios and are not Euro-centrically biased. 

Current Events & Tough Conversation
Our classrooms cannot be a haven where students cannot talk about current events in the “real world.” We can normalize talking through recent events happening in our country and in the broader globalized world. Students must feel comfortable sharing experiences, asking questions and having difficult conversations in order to be educated on these topics. Organizations like Teaching Tolerance (https://www.tolerance.org/) Facing History and Ourselves (www.facinghistory.org/educator/resources) and Educators for Justice (https://www.instagram.com/educatorsforjustice/) provide resources for discussing current events and their historical roots.

Intentional Educational trips.
Throughout the 12 years in the District, students are often required to attend educational field trips. There should be an emphasis on including experiences places such as the Gettysburg African American History tour and the D.C. National Museum of African American History and Culture, to learn about the multi-faceted and complex experiences of Black Americans at both a local and national level. Including these experiences in required curriculum is imperative that ALL students learn about these topics and not just those that show a peak interest through an elective course, extracurricular or club.

 

3. Hiring Processes and Staff Accountability
We bring this initiative to light not to dismiss the appreciated work of the current HPSD team, but to vocalize the importance of recruiting and retaining a racially and ethnically diverse teacher & administrative workforce. Increasing diversity throughout these groups will be a long-term initiative; so taking the time to plan and set a goal NOW is imperative.

Current facts to note:

  • All 5 schools within the District are led by a white administrator. 
  • The Superintendent and all 18 other faculty listed on the Administrative Staff Directory are white. 
  • All 10 members of the HPSD School Board are white.
  • All school counselors are white.
  • The head of the athletics department is white.
  • All athletic coaches are white.
  • All school nurses are white.
  • All athletic trainers are white.
  • While we do not know the exact racial makeup of the teachers within the District, it is clear that it is also dominantly white.

Make the demographic makeup of the HPSD faculty and administration public.
By making this information public, the District can hold itself accountable for its diversity in staff which is crucial to ensuring that all young students have role models who reflect the nation’s diversity and to meeting the needs of all students. This is also beneficial for families moving into the District. If a family of color is moving into HPSD, will their child have at least one educator that will look like them?

Revisit the hiring process of administrators, faculty and staff. Further, issue a plan in how the District will promote diversity in recruiting and the hiring processes moving forward.
According to a significant body of research: Students tend to benefit from having teachers who look like them, especially nonwhite students. The homogeneity of teachers is thought to be one of the contributors, the research suggests, to the gender and race gaps in student achievement. Teachers may view students through the lens they have developed throughout their personal schooling and life experiences. This lens may not accurately reflect an understanding of cultural differences. To effectively provide instruction to a diverse group of learners and make connections with the students and their families, teachers need to understand cultural differences and the rich backgrounds the students bring with them.

We encourage not only an increase in diverse recruitment, but actively engaging in hiring practices that will eliminate bias such as blind name application reading and including at least 25% diversity in all hiring and interview panels. Diversity on hiring panels is necessary in order for all applicants to have a fair opportunity when applying for a position. Interview panels including many diverse viewpoints and people provide a balance of interviewers with unique experiences, and will help candidates feel more comfortable. The panels must be assembled thoughtfully, with each member having a voice and everyone appreciating the value of diverse opinions.

A long-term and achievable goal must be set. We believe that by the year 2035 the Hanover Public School District Staff and Administration should be made up of at least 10% BIPOC — to correlate with the area demographics.

Create a District role of a Diversity and Inclusion Officer in charge of strategizing, implementing and ensuring these efforts.
The importance of the Diversity and Inclusion Officer role in all spaces is imperative – especially in predominantly white spaces. With the Hanover area being a majority white in racial demographics, BIPOC representation in groups such as the Hanover School Board can be difficult. Creating a position dedicated to these initiatives can serve as a permanent effort and this position can provide perspective on specific topics when representation might be lacking in groups such as the School Board. A majority of colleges and universities have offices dedicated to these efforts, and an increasing amount of K-12 education systems are implementing them as well. The D&I officer would lead and manage Hanover’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives through developing and institutionalizing programs, policies and procedures that advance the school's equity and inclusion goals.

Increased training on implicit bias, equity, privilege and inclusion.
Our schools can immediately implement increased education for the teachers and staff about their personal biases and stereotypes. Further understandings of bias, privilege and inclusion can lead to fairer treatment of students. These anti-racist trainings can include required courses, suggested readings and documentaries, online training resources (such as those available on www.racialequitytools.org/act/strategies/training-and-popular-education) and guest speakers and seminars. Specialized speakers who have expertise in teaching tolerance are invaluable in helping to create more accepting spaces and providing follow-up steps as to how to continue the material presented. These should not be one-time short sessions when hired or even annually, but a continued effort. Similar training and speaker opportunities should also be available and given to student leadership groups such as student council and student government. 

 

The current push for accountability and change in this nation and around the world is not a moment, but a movement. We know that racism did not start weeks, months or even years ago – it has been happening for centuries and enough is enough. It will take significant efforts from individual actions to institutional changes and the Hanover Public School District must do its part. 

As proud current students and alumni, we are committed to holding the Hanover Public School District to the set of standards set by its stated values and to bring an end to discrimination within the District – both overt and subtle. As a majority-white community, it is crucial for the District to put in the much-needed critical, meaningful, anti-racist work.  

We urge the Administration and School Board to listen. It is not a time to be dismissive, but instead it’s time for us to reach out, support in every way possible and take meaningful action. Racism and hatred are perpetuated by those who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality. We have a choice. We can begin by committing to making necessary and intentional changes in the outlined three categories: acknowledgement, expanding anti-racist curriculums and diversifying hiring. 

By doing so, the Hanover Public School District will be working towards properly educating, acknowledging, supporting and validating the lived experiences of Black, African American, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and ALL POC students; and our District will be able to truly live up to its mission statement.

Sincerely,

Anne Wu Henry – Class of 2014

Bitsy Sanders – Class President – Hanover Class of 2007 

Bakhtiar Syed – Class President – Hanover Class of 2008 

Lyna Tran – Class President – Hanover Class of 2009 

Gabi Rosenbrien – Class President – Hanover Class of 2010

Alex Daubert – Class President – Hanover Class of 2011

Kyle Sheely – Class President – Hanover Class of 2012

Linsey Bowersox – Class President – Hanover Class of 2013

Zachary Sheaffer – Class President – Hanover Class of 2014

Garret Reichart – Class President – Hanover Class of 2015

Colten Ehrhart – Class President – Hanover Class of 2016

Isaac Silver – Class President – Hanover Class of 2017

Helen Rosenbrien – Class President – Hanover Class of 2018

Scott Moorhead – Class President – Hanover Class of 2019

Isabelle Oropeza – Class President – Hanover Class of 2020

Alex Gruver – Class President –Hanover Class of 2021

Antonio Corona – Class President – Hanover Class of 2022 

Lola Garman – Class President – Hanover Class of 2023