The morning after Donald Trump became the nation’s 45th president, two students at York County School of Technology in Pennsylvania paraded through the hallways with a Trump sign, then another student shouted, “white power,” police said.
The moment, which was captured on video, elicited other reports that students, particularly minorities, are now seeing an increase in racial harassment.
Freshmen Victorria Markle and Eibreha Drayden told the York Dispatch that the harassment has been an issue for about a month but has gotten worse since Trump’s presidential win this week. Other students have called Victorria, who is part black, the n-word and have threatened to kill her, she told the newspaper. Eibreha, who is part Mexican, said students have called her “Papi” and whistled at her like a dog.
Some people claim that they have been spit on and that their tires have been slashed outside the school. One student said she was groped by a boy who said it was “his right,” according to CBS affiliate WHP-TV.
“It’s not usually like this here,” sophomore Shailynn Cornish told PennLive. “It’s because of the election. All these white people who are for Trump are going against all the blacks and Hispanics. They are going around shouting ‘white power’ and being racists towards blacks.
“It’s not safe. You are not comfortable.”
On Friday, representatives from the state Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission were set to investigate the reports at York County School of Technology, according to the York Dispatch.
The school did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Police warned that some of the allegations appearing on social media appeared to be exaggerations originating from people without connections to the school.
Renie Mezzanotte, a spokeswoman for the school, told the York Dispatch that the students who were involved in Wednesday’s incident had been disciplined but that she was unsure whether the other claims regarding racial harassment and threats, were substantiated.
In York County, situated just north of the Maryland border — the Mason-Dixon Line — and south of Harrisburg, nearly 62 percent cast their vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Nearly 33 percent voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. According to 2014 U.S. Census data, approximately 90 percent of York County residents are white.
York has struggled with race-related tensions over the years. Its 1969 race riots — violent protests between black and white citizens — ultimately led to the mayor’s arrest.
In 2001, former City of York Mayor Charles H. Robertson was arrested and charged with murdering a black woman during the riots. Prosecutors argued that Robertson, who was a police officer during that time, had given bullets to white people and told them to shoot and kill black people, according to a 2001 Washington Post report.
Robertson admitted that he shouted “white power!” during a rally the night the woman was shot, but he denied any involvement in her death. “I am not a racist,” he said at the time. “My job is to comfort and heal the City of York.”
He was found not guilty in 2002.
After some students at York County School of Technology marched through the hallways Wednesday, celebrating Trump’s triumph and shouting “white power,” police said “words were exchanged between students.”
Authorities said school administrators and a resource officer identified the students involved and handled disciplinary actions. Authorities found no evidence of a crime, according to news reports.
York NAACP President Sandra Thompson said Friday in an interview that she had received reports about students “saying were going to grope women’s breasts because they felt legitimized to do so, that they were spitting on students of color, that they were throwing water on students of color. They were telling them to go back to their home country and that the wall was going to be built.”
Thompson said she believes Trump’s election made students feel empowered to make racist, misognyst and anti-immigrant statements. But she also has questions about why the school had a climate in which students felt such statements would be tolerated.
“Regardless of what they heard from politics, why did they believe that they could be so vocal in the midst of the school?” Thompson said.
York police said that reports about racial harassment that began to sweep across social media had been “exaggerated.”
“These posts include but are not limited to students being spat on and that someone was bringing a gun to school,” according to an incident report. “None of this was reported to police by first party and none of the posts have been substantiated. Most of the posts were from people that do not attend the school or have anything to do with the school.”
“We urge our residents not to jump to conclusions based on posts or statements found on social media by individuals or groups that have not been substantiated,” police said in a statement.
The Facebook group “Parents of York County School of Technology Students” said members had learned that some students have been referring “to other races as their slaves, and at some points even spit on those students.”
“I think we should all have a chat tonight with our students, whether they were participating, appalled bystanders, or victims,” according to the post. “This whole situation is absolutely horrible.”
On Thursday morning, police were stationed at the school to handle any issues, but there were none, according to the incident report. Later in the day, concerned parents started showing up at the school to collect their children, according to news reports.
“It really saddens me as a parent,” Jeleny Rivera, Shailynn Cornish’s mother, told PennLive. “The administration isn’t responding.”
Atayshia, a freshman who did not want to provide her last name, told PennLive that white students in the cafeteria had said they planned to “deport Mexicans back to Mexico and blacks back to Africa.”
The girl, who is biracial, said one of the students told her to go “back to Africa.” “I just said, ‘I’m not from Africa,'” she told PennLive.
Also on Thursday, City of York Mayor Kim Bracey, who had received complaints from parents, arrived at the school along with her security detail and two other police officers to speak with the administration, police said.
Parents and students, please know that as your Mayor, the actions that have taken place at York County School of Technology, I do not take lightly and find them completely disturbing. This morning, I met with Dr. David Thomas, Director of York County School of Technology and I assure you that our city students, and all students of that school are safe. The students that caused the disturbance have been suspended, making a clear message that hate will not be tolerated. A call to all parents was also sent, to assure them that their child is safe and that they have taken yesterday’s incidents very seriously. While we all know people harbor their true feelings until they believe it is okay to act out, it appears that yesterday’s incident was isolated and the school is doing all they can to regain a sense of normalcy. Dr. Thomas also knows on-going conversation and cultural events must be had to help overcome negative behaviors and unknown feelings held by some, because of the very diverse background of the students that have always made up the student population at York County School of Technology. I beg of the school personnel to keep the conversation and positive events that highlight our differences going.
York County School of Technology is a career and technical public high school in York that works to integrate “core academics with hands-on training and higher level problem-solving,” according to its website.
The Facebook group “Parents of York County School of Technology Students” said that the school is “the most diverse school in York County.”
“Children from all races and all walks of life attend the school each and every day,” according to the post. “This diversity is something that should be celebrated, and not dividing the student body. It really is an amazing opportunity for our children to grow academically as well as socially.”
The group said administrators need to tell students to “keep their opinions to themselves.”
“This needs to be addressed not just on an administrative level, but they also need to give our children the opportunity to express that they will not tolerate these racist acts in an appropriate way,” according to the group.
“I want unity, peace, and diversity posters coating every hallway. I want them to educate the children about racism and bullying prevention. This should go far beyond protesting.”
Emma Brown contributed to this report.