John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Discrimination Category

Letter & Petition to Council Rock School District

Janai Johnson & Her Mom, Robin

A letter and petition posted to the Concerned Community of Council Rock School District Facebook Group by Janai Robinson, who has been active in the Newtown area #BlackLivesMatter movement, will be sent - on July 15, 2020 - to the Council Rock School Board, the Superintendent of Schools, and various school principals.

[See the letter embedded at the end of this post.]

The letter urges the Council Rock School District (CRSD) to "do better and actively prepare their students to become upstanding citizens who will fight for progressive change." CRSD, claim the authors of the letter, falls short of its very own mission statement: “Council Rock School District, in partnership with its community, empowers all students with the knowledge, habits, and attitudes to become life-long learners and to lead and serve in a diverse global society.”

"We know that by now you are well aware of the protests occurring throughout the country in response to the ongoing police brutality and systemic racism that have been woven into the fabric of the United States since the first enslaved peoples arrived here in 1619," state the authors..

The letter notes that "on social media, many of our classmates have spoken against the Black Lives Matter movement and refuse to acknowledge systemic racism," which indicates a need for CRSD to "actively prepare their students to become upstanding citizens who will fight for progressive change."

Action Steps

The letter lists several "action steps" that CRSD should follow to achieve that goal, including:

  • Ban all Confederate flags on campus
  • Change the name of Council Rock North’s mascot to something inoffensive
  • Add more Black/indigenous/LGBTQ history to the curriculum for American history courses
  • Make an active effort to hire and train a more diverse, non-white teaching staff
  • Allow students to create Black and POC student unions

Creating a K-12 curriculum to combat racism was on of the pledges I took as a paricipant in the June 4, 2020, "Enough is Enough" vigil at the Garden of Reflection hosted by NAACP Bucks and the Peace Center.

Read the Letter, Sign the Petition

See the letter embedded below (or download the pdf file) and sign the petition here.

Posted on 17 Jun 2020, 01:38 - Category: Discrimination

Newtown Supervisors Plan a Town Hall Meeting with Police

A the June 10, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, I suggested to Newtown Police Chief John Hearn that the township host a public "Town Hall" meeting where police officers and the community - especially residents who feel they have issues with the police - can get to know one another and have a meaningful dialog. In essence, a bigger, more inclusive, version of "Coffee with a Cop". This is something similar to what the Chief has done on a monthly basis when he was a Captain in the Philadelphia police force.

Listen to the Zoom meeting discussion:

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown Supervisors Plan Town Hall Meeting with Police

Hearn was selected to be the Newtown Chief of Police back in Februray 2020 after an exhaustive process that involved screening over 20 applicants (read “Meet Newtown Township’s New Police Chief”).

In my review of Hearn's application, I noted the following:

  1. He has experience preparing budgets for special events
  2. He takes an analytical approach to making decisions based on facts
  3. He believes technology can minimize the cost of training
  4. In his previous position he assigned officers “areas of influence” where they are required to knock on doors and visit businesses and introduce themselves
  5. He held special “traffic safety blitzes” and emphasized education vs. tickets
  6. He implemented a “walking with a cop” program
  7. He held monthly town halls with citizens

Back in March, 2019, when I first wrote about this, I noted that of particular interest to me were items #6 and #7 on this list. Since then I have often brought up the subject of a town hall with the Chief, but not until the #blacklivesmatter demonstrations and, in particular, the June 4, 2020, Vigil at the Garden of Reflection, did this move to the top of my list. It is part of my Vigil pledge to “begin community dialogue … about combating racism and making our community safe for everyone.”

I will be working with fellow Supervisor David Oxley, community leaders, Chief Hearn and Township Manager Micah Lewis to plan for this live Town Hall meeting, which we hope can happen in July 2020, conditions permitting.

NAACP’s Challenge

Every police department in Bucks County must publicly speak out against racism and the unjust killing of black Americans by law enforcement. That was the challenge issued Tuesday, June 9, 2020, by members of the Bucks County NAACP, which sponsored the June 4, 2020, Vigil in the Garden of Reflection (see end of post).

Here’s the response by Newtown Police Chief John Hearn made at the June 10, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors Zoom meeting (view the full video archive here):

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown Township Police Chief Hearn's Message To the Community

Posted on 13 Jun 2020, 01:11 - Category: Discrimination

An update from Superintendent Fraser regarding the Starbucks incident!

Dear CR School Community

The Council Rock School District has been made aware that the Newtown Borough Police Department has filed one count of Harassment and one count of Criminal Mischief against a First Student employee who drives a bus for the District. The charges arise out of an incident that occurred on June 1 in Newtown Borough in the area of 100 South State Street (read "Let's Make Sure Racism Has No Place in Newtown!"). While the District firmly believes the individual charged is entitled to due process, our transportation department has notified First Student that the individual may no longer serve as a driver in the Council Rock School District.

This incident comes on the heels of the senseless murder of George Floyd, which many of us have horrifically watched on television. Like many, I’ve been shocked and shaken by this murder and also by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery just days before. As the CR community, I urge all of us to come together as one to combat any hate crime, any hate speech, and all forms of racism. It’s important that we’re unified and that we are there for each other. I urge you to surround each other as one community with all the love, compassion, and kindness that we all possibly have to offer. We all need it, and our African-American friends in particular need it right now.

Robert Fraser

Now I want to take an opportunity to write directly to our CR students. I want you to know that every student in the Council Rock School District – EVERY SINGLE STUDENT – is accepted, valued, and welcomed with open arms. There is a safe space for every single CR student in our schools. I wrote earlier this week that tolerance is not nearly the standard. We are not interested in merely tolerating the wonderful diversity that we do have in CR; rather, we embrace, value, and celebrate our collective diversity. We celebrate it because ultimately it makes us better, individually and collectively. To every CR student… we love you and we will build dreams with you. We also miss you dearly and can’t wait until our schools can reopen. In the meantime, if you feel a need to discuss these incidents with an adult, please talk with a parent or trusted friend, or contact your school counselor or another adult at school. Please be well, stay well, and stick with each other. Depend on each other. Lead with love – and live a life full of kindness and compassion for all people. I’ll do the same. We’ll all be better for it in the end.

Warmly-

Dr. Robert Fraser

Superintendent of Schools

Posted on 04 Jun 2020, 16:20 - Category: Discrimination

Let's Make Sure Racism Has No Place in Newtown!

Yesterday, June 2, 2020, an white male smiled as he assaulted a 22-yo woman #BlacklivesMatter protester outside Starbucks in Newtown Borough. The Intelligencer reported that the woman was of "Asian descent." The photos below show him before and after the attack, which knocked the young woman’s phone to the ground. 

A bystander says “you hit her” to which he replied “I did not.” Yes, you absolutely did! View the video posted to Facebook.

The mother of the victim said in her Facebook post, “I can’t express how frustrated I feel today after an incident happened with my 22 yrs old daughter and 18 yrs old son when they wanted to educate people in Newtown very peacefully by putting flyers on street regarding George Floyd’s death and one white couple was there and yelled at them and tried to hit my daughter and cracked her phone by dropping on the floor.”

She was being nice. He not only “tried,” he actually did strike her hand holding the phone. It’s very clear this is what happened from the video and from eyewitnesses at the scene. The Newtown Borough Police were there and I am waiting to see the police report.

Is This a Racist Incident?

The mom ended her post with these words: “Do you think this white couple will do the same thing with white kids if they were putting the same posters? I really think people have to drastically change their thinking and support humanity, not racism.”

Regardless if you believe this assault had racial undertones or not, Newtown residents should be aware of racial issues right here in town and change their thinking about racism and do more to prevent it. That is the goal of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission (NTHRC), which plans to put racism front and center at its June 17th Zoom meeting on racism (more about that below). Below are some comments I have received from people who have registered to attend this meeting:

“As a Black female living in this community, I remain frightened for my husband, son, father as well as my daughters and myself. I'm interested to hear firsthand how these issues are being addressed in our community.”
“We are part of the 2% of African Americans living in Newtown/Richboro and are deeply impacted by the recent events and overall racism that we and other black families have experienced here in Newtown. We would like to see the Committee urge the Newtown Police Department to release a statement reassuring its black residents that they are safe and all will be treated equally.”
“We are the only black family in our development, and one of a hand full in the area. I want to make sure that this area has processes, programs, resources available so that my family can live here safely. One of my children was being picked on in first grade. My husband is a black man who runs, bikes, etc in the area and we need to feel safe.”
“As an African-American woman who was a child during the 1960s, came of age during the 1970s. I've experienced and still experience racism, discrimination, bigotry and prejudice in a variety of ways and am still learning insights to all the detailed intricate and less obvious aspects of microaggresions, unconscious bias and systemic racism.”
“Because I’ve been calling out these systemic issues within policing for nearly 2 decades only to be harassed by the very people I’m calling out because they are the law. Harassed by those that are supposed to protect and serve. Who will police the police? I have been especially concerned about the clear prejudices of certain officers, and the complete lack of diversity within the Newtown PD. The time has come to hold them accountable for everything, even the smallest of infractions.”
“I want to help to eradicate racism in our community and our country.  I have friends and family from all different backgrounds and with all different skin colors, and right now I fear for their safety.   I'm a white woman, and my husband is Arab and identifies as brown.  I worry for him and our 2 children and how they will be treated, because of their names or how they look.  Our country is supposed to stand for freedom and hope for everyone and I want to be sure I a doing my part to help achieve those ambitious goals.”
“As someone who works in Newtown and has both parents and parents in-law living in Newtown I’m concerned about the way the Newtown community has responded to racism in the past. Also having friends who are people of color living in and making positive contributions to the Newtown community I’m concerned for them and their families.”
“I am an African American female who was born and raised in Bensalem. Racism is no stranger to me, but it has helped to make me the strong woman I am today, determined to get involved to make a change!”
Get Involved, Make A Change

Just a few days prior to this incident, the NTHRC decided to dedicate its Wednesday, June 17, 2020, 7 PM, Zoom public meeting to discussing racism and what can be done to ensure that racism has no place in Newtown and that incidents such as the above are not tolerated. All members of the public will be able to attend and participate in this meeting.

Please complete this registration form if you are interested in attending this meeting.

The information you provide will be useful to aid the discussion and you will receive my personal invitation with the meeting ID and password and/or link via the email address you provide.

 

 

 

Posted on 02 Jun 2020, 10:29 - Category: Discrimination

Newtown Township Passes Revised Love is Love Resolution

I commandeered a protest poster for a
photo op after the resolution passed
unanimously.

A revised "Love is Love" resolution was passed by unanimous bipartisan 5-0 vote at the March 11, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. See the resolution at the end of this post.

My first attempt to pass such a similar resolution at the February 26, 2020, Board of Supervisors meeting failed by a 3-2 vote (see here). That resolution, which was modeled after one pushed by state Sen. Steve Santarsiero [which failed to reach the floor in Harrisburg], would have established February 15 as “love is love day” in the township. Chairman Phil Calabro joined Board colleagues Kyle Davis and David Oxley in voting no. All three said they felt the document was "exclusionary."

Both resolutions were inspired by the first ever “Love is Love Prom” for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies on February 15, 2020, hosted by the Rainbow Room LGBTQ Youth Organization at the Michener Art Museum.

After discussions with Marlene Pray, the Rainbow Room’s Director & Founder, Sen. Santarsiero, Yardley Borough Council Chair David Bria, Newtown supervisor Dennis Fisher, and others, I created the revised “Love is Love” draft resolution that I hoped would be more palatable to the Board of Supervisors yet still achieve the utlimate gooal of the LGBTQ+ community; i.e., to know that Newtown Township recognizes the amazing prom and supports and values LGBTQ + minority youth in our community. It worked!

But before my resolution was presented to the Boarrd for a vote, we heard from several LGBTQ+ youth from The Rainbow Room who spoke in favor of passing a #LoveIsLove resolution. There is no doubt that the impassioned comments from these young people, their parents, Marlene Pray, and others made a big impression upon the supervisors.

Although it took several tries and a modified version to get a resolution passed, I believe it was a great opportunity to educate the public regarding the trials and tribulations of LGBTQ + minority youth. I included the "+ minority youth" in the resolution because (1) according the Peace Center, LGBTQ + minority youth in our community face harassment, violence and discrimination, and (2) Supervisor Oxley, who is African-American, noted that his son was called the "n" word by a classmate in school and expressed how difficult it was for him as a father to deal with that (listen to his comments below). 

Comments From Elected Officials

Newtown Supervisor David Oxley, and other local and state elected officials made comments in support of the Love is Love resolution. The following are audio and video clips of those comments.

PA State Senator Steve Santarsiero, whose own Love is Love Resolution failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote (see here), urged Newtown Township Supervisors to pass the Love is Love resolution.

Newtown Borough Council Member Robert Szwajkos, who is a gay man, urged Newtown Township Supervisors to pass the Love is Love resolution.

Yardley Borough Council Chair David Bria, who inspired Newtown Township's Anti-Discrimination Ordinace, urged Newtown Supervisors to pass the Love is Love resolution.

Comments From the Public

Marlene Pray, Planned Parenthood Rainbow Room’s Director & Founder, suggests how the BOS can pass an effective Love is Love resolution that uplifts and celebrates LGBTQ + minority youth in the Newtown community.

A mother of a 13 yo transgender son, who said how proud she was of her son, urged Newtown Township Supervisors to pass the Love is Love resolution.

There were many more comments from local LGBTQ+ youth and their high school friends. You can view the entire streaming video of the Board of Supervisors meeting - including all the comments made to the Board - on the official Newtown Township website here.

Reading of the Resolution and the Vote

All in all, there was much love expressed at the meeting!

Newtown Township's Love is Love Resolution

Posted on 12 Mar 2020, 01:05 - Category: Discrimination

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