Incident puts damper on year at Hollidaysburg

The unconscionable incident that occurred last week in the Hollidaysburg Area School District has caused young people and adults alike, from within and beyond the school system, to wonder how, in this purportedly enlightened time, the four students involved became complicit with such a repugnant attitude.

As people who have been following news of the incident are aware, the students in question participated in a game that turned racially insensitive with the use of a word that’s degrading to blacks.

What occurred went viral in a video shared on social media on Tuesday. The situation then became compounded by death threats aimed at two of the students — threats currently being investigated by police.

All four students involved are members of the 2017-18 Hollidaysburg Area junior class. Considering their age, their knowledge of racial tensions that have occurred elsewhere and what they know about social media, the students should have rejected immediately any thought of engaging in such conduct.

Beyond that, putting the incident out there for all to see smacks of an ignorance and meanness damaging not only to themselves but to the school district to which at all times they should be loyal, respectful and willing to defend.

School district officials deserve praise for their immediate response to what took place. Punishment was implemented within the parameters of school policy, and officials were rightfully careful to respect privacy laws that govern incidents within school settings.

Nevertheless, some district residents, deeply troubled by the incident, probably would have preferred official revelation of the terms of the punishment, as well as the identities of the students involved. That viewpoint is understandable, all considered, but not within the law.

Presumably, school officials will heed the recommendation of Blair County NAACP President Don Witherspoon regarding scheduling of more sensitivity training in the Hollidaysburg schools. However, officials’ immediate response regarding the incident and quick action in setting the terms of punishment were indicative that, even without Witherspoon’s suggestion, such steps would be part of the start-up of the 2018-19 school year.

Other school districts should take note.

Reflecting on this unwanted Hollidaysburg experience, it must be acknowledged that there was a long time in this country when insensitivity like that displayed Tuesday was common and wrongfully accepted.

There was an attitude that African-Americans were lesser human beings not worthy of respect, although that could not have been more wrong.

But again, this purportedly is an enlightened time, despite the racially insensitive activities that sometimes still occur amid 21st century life.

It’s despicable that such a racially insensitive happening took place here, even if done merely in jest, as those involved suggested in subsequent posts on social media.

Right-thinking people aren’t laughing.

The local incident displayed the immaturity and lack of foresight of those involved. The students failed to recognize the implications of that in which they engaged, specifically the death threats that were forthcoming and school officials’ abhorrence and response to what occurred.

It must be hoped that authorities are successful in identifying those responsible for the threats.

In the end, what the four students accomplished was proving to Hollidaysburg school officials that they should be wary of extending full trust and confidence, even to older students — the students who should be leaders among the student body in terms of responsible conduct.

There’s never a place for the repugnance that tarnished Hollidaysburg Area’s otherwise successful 2017-18 school year.

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