We will not tolerate racism
Date of publication: Oct. 10, 2017
By Dr. Bill Harner, Superintendent
Quakertown Community School District
When I was a second lieutenant working in Germany nearly four decades ago, I learned early on that bad news does not get better with age. Since then, I have done my best to share both good and bad news with my leaders, and with my team as soon as possible. Given the nature of the unfortunate incident and my disappointment with what happened Friday night, I thought it best to share the bad news with you too. To say the least, I am professionally and personally embarrassed by the misconduct of several of our middle school students during and after the football game at Alumni Field.
It started out as a wonderful evening and community gathering to watch another great performance by Quakertown football that also included Senior Night, the crowning of the 2017 Homecoming Queen and King, and a spectacular post-game performance by the 2017 Quakertown Marching Band. Sadly, it was a night that ended with verbal harassment and horror including racial slurs for many of our student guests from Cheltenham. Let me briefly explain.
Shortly after the Quakertown Marching Bands’ post-performance, I received my first notice that we had a serious problem. It was an email message from a member of the Cheltenham athletic department notifying me that after the game Quakertown students threw rocks at the Cheltenham buses, while yelling racial slurs. I received a second report on Saturday morning that students gathered by the fence had also yelled racial slurs and made threatening comments when the Cheltenham cheerleaders were cheering. After investigation, we determined that a small group of unsupervised middle school students were responsible for these reprehensible actions.
Our Cheltenham guests knew that I was at the game, as I personally walked the visitor sidelines prior to the game welcoming their cheerleaders, the head football coach, and his staff. Also, in attendance at the game was the school board leadership team and several other board members, an assistant superintendent, our high school principal, an assistant principal, the Athletic Director, a security team, and a Quakertown Borough Police Officer.
Even with all of the adult supervision we have at every Quakertown home game, scores of middle school students roam around the stadium without parental supervision. Having unsupervised middle school students at football games is not just a Quakertown problem. I have seen it everywhere, at home and away games, for the past twenty years. Unfortunately, while 99.9% of our school community members in attendance this past Friday night were awesome hosts to the visiting Panthers of Cheltenham HS, a few children besmirched Quakertown. We will not tolerate it!
Today, we completed a thorough three day investigation, and as a result, appropriate action was taken in accordance with the Quakertown Code of Student Conduct. I am most grateful to the leaders at Cheltenham Township School District; the superintendent, high school principal, and football and cheerleading coaches, for their open dialogue, support, and understanding. Also special thanks to the game officials who confirmed that our athletes on the field, our student spirit section and other spectators in the stands were excellent Quakertown citizens. Clearly, what happened Friday night is not representative of our wonderful community.
Moving forward, this is a teachable moment that we cannot ignore. I respectfully request you use the news media and this blog as discussion points with your children. There is no place in our school district where harassment, bullying, and especially racially based slurs or misconduct will be tolerated or acceptable. We are Quakertown!
Thanks for reading, and for your attention to this important matter.