Olathe North High School Sends Letter To Parents About Racial Incidents

Dec 8, 2016

Olathe North High School Principal Jason Herman sent a letter to parents Wednesday about several incidents of racial harassment were reported.
Credit Olathe School District

The Olathe Public Schools issued a statement Thursday morning about racial incidents reported at Olathe North High School.

Principal Jason Herman informed parents Wednesday.

"I wanted to make you aware of some very concerning behavior recently occurring at North. We have had several incidents in which students were harassed based on their race and/or ethnicity," he said in a letter.

The district's statement said it "supports and values" the message from Herman.  "While the administration at North will continue to investigate and address any code of conduct violations, we recognize the responsibility we have to guide our school communities and reflect on our core values of respect and inclusion."

No details were provided by the district. Olathe police say they are not involved in the investigation.

These racial incidents at Olathe North come at a time when many educators say they're seen an increase in bullying or tension because of the election.

In report called The Trump Effect from the Southern Poverty Law Center, 40 percent of educators in an online survey said they've witnessed "derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation" since the election of Donald Trump.

The survey is unscientific but some 10,000 teachers responded, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Conflict started to bubble up right after the election in the Shawnee Mission School District where some teachers were accused of wearing safety pins as a protest to the election of Trump. Many teachers said the safety pins were simply a sign to students that there was a safe spot to concerns or fears. 

The district has not outright banned wearing safety pins but has strongly urged teachers to not wear them because, the district says, the pins have become a political symbol inappropriate for the classroom.

“I’m wearing it because I feel like it’s a personal statement of how I feel," says Ray Marsh Elementary Librarian Jan Bombeck, who insists on wearing a safety pin. "If there’s one child that notices it and feels like I’m someone they can talk to about a concern they may have, then I feel like it’s worthwhile.”

Sam Zeff  covers education for KCUR and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.