I want to share with you an incident that occurred at our high school on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. A student posted a picture on social media of black Allentown High School students in line in the cafeteria and superimposed the caption, “Last Free Meal.” Multiple students of many racial backgrounds reported this incident. We immediately investigated and verified the posting on the student’s phone. This situation was appalling to me. According to our code of conduct, the incident was classified as a bias/racial incident, and the following actions were taken: notification to the State Police (bias/racial incidents are against the law), notification to the school’s Affirmative Action Officer, and immediate suspension from school.
Unfortunately, this picture was sent to The Trentonian. I was called by a reporter and explained to him that I cannot comment publicly on student issues or student discipline. I did explain that no incident of this type would be tolerated in our high school. Some believed that my lack of explanation to the press meant that nothing was done. This could not be further from the truth. Not commenting publicly on a student issue, does not mean the issue is not dealt with in the most serious manner allowed by our code of conduct.
No racial/bias incident will be tolerated at Allentown High School. As a school, we are committed to protecting the safety and rights of all of our students regardless of their religion, race, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or economic background. I want to work together with parents to assure that all of our students come to school each day feeling accepted and valued.
I have met with the faculty and staff and with all students. I have explained what happened, how it was dealt with, and what our expectations are going forward. We are working with student leaders to create more opportunities for students to feel supported and valued. The newspaper article and others have suggested that this incident may have been a reaction to the presidential election. As I told students, whoever is in the White House, my first concern is how they behave in our house: Allentown High School. Nothing excuses poor behavior or racial and ethnic intolerance.
I assure you the situation was handled and the entire staff is being vigilant for any repercussions. I ask that if your son/daughter feels uncomfortable or reports any concerns, that you encourage him/her to speak to me, the vice-principals, teachers or guidance counselors. I also ask that parents call me to let me know of any issue they may hear about. I cannot change behavior or prevent actions that I do not know about. I appreciate your continued support. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Constance DeNicola Embley Principal