Although not organized as a group effort, around 10 residents voiced their concerns to the Cumberland Valley School Board on Tuesday night about a perceived lack of diversity tolerance in district schools.
Heidi Dolimpio of Hampden Township told the school board on Tuesday that her two multiracial sons in elementary grades have been verbally harassed and physically assaulted at school due to their race for the past two years. Dolimpio said she has contacted district administrators and municipal police about the matter without any satisfactory results.
Board president Heather Dunn, a member of the school district’s diversity committee, told Dolimpio that she “can’t imagine any administrator” not doing anything about the issue.
“We bring these issues to our (board) committees. I do answer (the public’s) questions, but not during public comment sessions,” Dunn said. “I answer all of my emails and phone calls (from constituents). It’s not falling on deaf ears. If we answered every question here, we’d be here for hours and hours.”
The Cumberland Valley School District officially has a new superintendent for the new school year.
Jumoke Kirkwood, parent of a recent CV grad and an 11th-grader, told the board that African-American students like her children endure racism “on a daily basis” in the district.
“This is something that kids should never have to go through, but they do. It needs to change now and it needs to change at Cumberland Valley School District,” Kirkwood said, drawing applause from the audience.
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Joe Robinson Jr., president of the Greater Harrisburg chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he came to Tuesday’s school board meeting to support Kirkwood. He said that while 85 percent of the district’s population is white, 2 percent are black and 3 percent are Hispanic. The same figures are cited for the district in a 2017 American Community Study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and posted on https://censusreporter.org.
Superintendent David Christopher, whose father emigrated to the U.S. from India, said that despite being on the job for only 11 days, he “really could feel the passion” of the residents who spoke on Tuesday night.
“As a new superintendent who’s not white, I’m hearing you and I’m upset,” Christopher said. “This (school) board is committed to serving all students in our school district. This is a challenging time for our country. It’s not indicative of Cumberland Valley. As a father of a little brown girl, I’m not immune to these times.”
Christopher said after Tuesday’s meeting that district staff have been undergoing a diversity training program for most of this year that concludes in November. However, Christopher said he also realizes that this alone won’t end the problem.
“This is an issue that’s never really gone,” he said.
“This is something that kids should never have to go through, but they do. It needs to change now and it needs to change at Cumberland Valley School District.” — Jumoke Kirkwood, parent of a recent CV grad and an 11th-grader