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Principal wore blackface as Steve Harvey for staff 'team building exercise,' apologized, got disciplined. But others want answers.


'I truly care about people'

Image source: YouTube screenshot

It's come out that a Pennsylvania elementary school principal wore blackface at a staff "team building exercise" in August, was subsequently disciplined and apologized for her actions — but community civil rights activists still want answers, the York Daily Record reported.

The paper said it recently received a photo of Principal Lisa Boyer of Friendship Elementary School in Glen Rock "posing as television personality Steve Harvey in blackface":

The Southern York County School District released a statement to the Daily Record saying "no students were present in the school" on the day the photo was taken as "it was a staff in-service day. The principal had the staff play a game based upon the television show, "Family Feud," and she dressed up as the show's host, Steve Harvey. The principal wore a man's suit, a stocking to cover her hair, a fake mustache and makeup on her face to darken her skin color."

After district officials found out, "the principal was disciplined and apologized to school staff who were present for the incident. The central office administration also made it clear to the principal that such conduct violated both the letter and the spirit of the School District's nondiscrimination policies. This matter was not 'swept under the rug, it was promptly addressed — and it was made clear that this incident was inappropriate within the school setting," the statement added, according to the paper.

Superintendent Sandra Lemmon added to the Daily Record that all the staff members present during the incident are white, to the best of her knowledge.

"They shared that they were surprised," Lemmon added to the paper, "and they shared very openly that they did not believe that her intent was to offend in any way."

Others still want answers

But the incident doesn't sit well with a number of community civil and human rights' leaders — and they want answers.

Sandra Thompson, president of the York NAACP, told the Daily Record that if the teachers present — regardless of race — were not offended by Boyer's actions, then the educational system may need even more work than she thought.

"As an educator, Boyer's actions suggest she is not fostering an inclusive environment for young children to learn and grow comfortably and freely," Melissa Plotkin, a spokeswoman for the York Jewish Community Center, added to the paper.

Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and national expert on race relations, told the Daily Record that Boyer "has to know that putting on blackface is beyond absurd. It is racially insensitive. White privilege allowed the principal to not see that anything that she did was racially insensitive, and what follows is a continuation of a hollow apology."

What did the principal say?

Boyer emailed the paper saying her "intention was never to offend anyone," and she "did not have ill intent."

"[H]owever, I understand now how my actions could be viewed as insensitive and inappropriate," she added to the Daily Record. "I deeply regret my decision and have learned from it."

Boyer added to the paper that she plans "to use n to use this example to help students learn from my mistake so that we may all understand how to be sensitive to all cultures. For the past 30 years, I have devoted my life to helping and educating children to be the best people they can be through spreading kindness. I truly care about people and pray that you understand that as well. Thank you for reaching out to me. Take care."

'What do you think blackface means?'

Thompson didn't appear convinced by Boyer's apology.

"You intended to dress as Steve Harvey which is not a problem, but then you intentionally acted to dress in blackface," Thompson told the Daily Record. "So if you are going to dress in blackface, what do you think that blackface means? How do you think it is regarded? You would have to say that in 2018 you had no knowledge that blackface is offensive. And if a principal and educator is to say that, we really have a problem."

She added to the paper that Boyer's response "suggests this is just something people need to get over. Was her intent to say people have to be less sensitive to the issue?"

Lassiter told the Daily Record he wants the full details of the district's investigation and disciplinary actions against Boyer.

"It's not about seeing someone lose their job," Plotkin added to the paper, "it's about making sure that our schools are proactive — that they understand the gravity of the situation. A training session, a public forum...we need to be reassured that action was taken."

(H/T: The College Fix)

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