Board issues statement on recent incident at NPHS

Board+President+Tina+Stoll+reads+a+statement+addressing+the+incident+that+occurred+at+NPHS+on+May+4th.

Board President Tina Stoll reads a statement addressing the incident that occurred at NPHS on May 4th.

During the May work session on Tuesday , the North Penn School Board released a statement regarding an incident last week where a black Muslim student was not given the necessary treatment after her hijab was forcefully removed, in a fight that occurred in the North Penn High School cafeteria. Many have called the incident a hate crime. More information can be found here

Our diverse community including Black, Hispanic, Mixed Race, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and White students speak a variety of languages, observe different belief systems, and worship in a multitude of ways,” Board President Tina Stoll read in the statement. “The diversity inherent in this community is a blessing.  But it is a blessing that requires a shared commitment to make it work for everyone.”

“As a school board, we have prioritized cultural proficiency work with an acknowledgment that there are problems inherent in society and reflected in our schools,” Stoll continued. “We have committed to this work and we’ve instituted policies and practices designed to combat racism and bias head-on.”

The full statement from the Board can be found here.

In the first public comment of the night, multiple members of the community called in to voice their opinions on the matter, including North Penn sophomore Harsh Desai.

“I agree that some students are upset about [the incident]… and are throwing hate at the district which I have mixed feelings about,” Desai reflected, on his peers reaction to the attack and how it was handled. “Its not the right way to spread hate, but I understand where they’re coming from.”

“It’s this thing where you listen and you take action,” Desai continued. “But its with what you hear that you take that action”.

It’s this thing where you listen and you take action. But its with what you hear that you take that action.”

— Harsh Desai, NPHS Sophomore

Other public comments included those from parents like Ann Martin Montgomery, who said the attack “opened a pre-existing wound in [the] community”. Another speaker was community member Rebecca Singleton.

“There’s nothing wrong with teaching culture and science and math and music and art and everything else, as long as we’re all respecting our differences and acknowledging the fact that we all bring something amazing to the table,” Singleton expressed, on the topic of having more cultural proficiency in schools. 

The district has been focusing much more on its cultural proficiency program in the district, requiring teachers and staff attend lessons in cultural proficiency to better understand their diverse student body. While the work being done is a step forward, a theme from the night is that there is still more work to be done.

During New Business, Board member Juliane Ramić posed a question on the status of a potential Equity Summit. The idea was proposed by Assistant Superintendent Dr. D’Ana Waters about two months ago, and would happen over the coming summer.

“That is still in discussion and something we are working towards, I don’t have a whole lot more to report on it right now,” Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich said. “It is something that is being thoroughly discussed and plans are being readied.” 

Board member Dr. Elisha Gee added that there will be more information on the Equity Summit at the next ECI meeting on June 1.

Dietrich also gave a brief opinion on what he thinks the structure of next year may look like, taking into consideration the new vaccination age groups, including ages 12-15 eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. 

“As I see this all coming together, it appears that the hybrid program won’t be necessary,” he said, going on to elaborate that the district could offer a fully virtual option or fully in-person option for those who wanted one or the other. The Board will discuss that topic in much more detail during a presentation at the June 8 worksession. 

The next North Penn School Board meeting will be on May 20, 2021, and it will be the first time since the start of the pandemic that members of the public will be allowed to attend meetings at the ESC, but those guests must pre-register (registration is already full), as only 10 members of the public are permitted to attend, due to COVID safety guidelines.