• New Hope-Solebury Middle School students  disciplined for racial graffiti found in bathroom
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    Date of publication: Oct. 25, 2017

    By Chris English, staff writer

    The Intelligencer and Courier Times

    Discipline has been meted out and more anti-hate programs will be conducted at New Hope-Solebury Middle School, after a racial slur was found on a bathroom wall at the school on Friday, school district Superintendent Steve Yanni said Tuesday.

    Yanni declined to provide any specific information on the student or students involved in the incident other than to say that those involved attended the middle school. He also wouldn't comment on specifics of the discipline or the racial slur.

    "Intervention and discipline have been given in accordance with school board policy," he said. "We're following up with a coherent plan mapped out by the middle school team, and we'll move on from this."

    New Hope-Solebury policies on student discipline and care of school property, which can be viewed on the school district website, do not spell out specific penalties for infractions like writing racist graffiti.

    The care of school property policy states that "students who willfully cause damage to school property shall be subject to disciplinary measures. Students and others who damage or deface school property may be prosecuted and punished under law."

    In a letter to school district residents sent via the school district website on Saturday, Yanni informed residents about the incident and what's being done about it.

    "In no way does this represent the character in our community," school board President Neale Dougherty said on Tuesday. "I feel our administration has done a fantastic job getting out in front of it. That kind of hate will not be tolerated."

    In his letter, Yanni wrote that representatives of the organizations Teaching Tolerance and No Place For Hate will visit the middle school this week to talk to students about tolerance and respect for all races. In addition, middle school Principal Christina Cortellessa will organize a school-wide community service project designed to foster tolerance.

    Those two anti-hate groups and the Bucks County Network for Victims Assistance already were conducting programs in all the New Hope-Solebury schools, in addition to other measures like social justice and inclusiveness being taught as part of the curriculum in various subjects and grade levels, Yanni said Tuesday.

    "We know that discipline and consequences alone do not change behavior," Yanni wrote in the letter. "Therefore we are also committed to helping those involved understand why they chose to engage in this type of behavior, and why/how it affects others.

    "This one incident does not, will not and cannot define us," he continued. "While this letter relates specifically to the middle school, please know that we continue to take steps K-12 to promote and enhance inclusion and acceptance. Please rest assured that the issue is being handled appropriately and we will emerge a stronger, better and more resilient New Hope-Solebury."

    New Hope-Solebury is the latest Bucks County school district responding to recent incidents of racism. Earlier this month, Quakertown middle school students were disciplined for yelling racist slurs at Cheltenham cheerleaders and throwing rocks at their bus after a football game.

    Several weeks ago, an unknown person — probably not a student based on a vague description given to police — scrawled racist graffiti on a sign and other locations at Neshaminy's Herbert Hoover Elementary School. Last year, a swastika and other hate graffiti were written on a bathroom wall at Council Rock High School North, and a Latina student there found a note in her backpack telling her to go back to Mexico.

    Quakertown, Council Rock and Neshaminy officials and those from several other area school districts contacted by this news organization all have said there are programs in place to combat racism and foster tolerance and that those goals are also emphasized in the curriculum at all grade levels.

    Among other initiatives, Council Rock partners with The Peace Center in Langhorne on anti-hate programs and Quakertown is entering into a similar venture with the nonprofit.

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