News

York private school principal apologizes for talk of training urban kids to be 'quiet, clean'

Written by Shaniece Holmes-Brown and Ed Mahon,/The York Daily Record | Jul 12, 2018 7:15 AM
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Tidings of Peace Christian School on East Poplar Street in York is seen in this 2015 file photo. (Photo: Kate Penn -- York Daily Record/Sunday News)

(York) -- The principal of Tidings of Peace Christian School in York has apologized for an online post in which he talked about training York children "to be quiet, clean and orderly."

The post was under the principal's welcome section on the school's website.

"Many people who live outside of the city, believe that urban children are loud, dirty and unruly," wrote Clayton Shenk, the school's principal and administrator. "We have discovered in the 33 years of living in the City of York that children are open to truth, and when trained properly, they can learn to be quiet, clean and orderly."

He added: "This is the 25th year that we have been training Urban children to not only present themselves in pleasing outward behavior but to also yield themselves to Jesus Christ our Lord."

Sandra Thompson, a York attorney and president of the York chapter of the NAACP, shared Shenk's message on her Facebook page on July 2.

"This gets tiring..." Thompson, who is black, wrote. "We understand the code word 'Urban.'"

Thompson added: "This Principal..ie this school is pandering to racial/economical stereotypes within its school, its community, and/or congregation instead of uplifting and educating those who hold those ignorant ideals...as would be done by true Christians."

She encouraged parents of children at the school to contact officials there.

The dispute comes as York County has received national attention for racially charged incidents. Last month, the  Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission held investigatory hearings on the treatment of five black golfers, who had the police called on them while at Grandview Golf Course. Thompson was one of the golfers.

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Sandra Thompson, right, speaks alongside Sandra Harrison, both golfers and members of a group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway, during an interview with The Associated Press, Tuesday April 24, 2018 in York. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

'Unchecked privilege and unintentional racism'

Thompson's post about Shenk prompted a response. It received more than 100 comments, mostly agreeing with Thompson.

  • "Our black brown children are not animals to be trained," one person wrote.
  • "This sounds like a page from a slave master's diary. Here he writes about how to civil the savages," wrote another.
  • "This is such a great example of unchecked privilege and unintentional racism," wrote another.

There were a few defenders of Shenk, including one person who praised the work Shenk and his church do in the community.

"All this racial tension energy is being directed in the wrong direction...golf course...yes...missionaries with a huge track record of good deeds...no," the person wrote.

Apology

Shortly after Thompson's post, school officials changed the website and Shenk apologized.

"I thank you for pointing out the error in my wording. I am sincerely sorry that I used words that offended people I am here to serve. Please forgive me," Shenk wrote on Facebook. "By God's grace I will do better in the future."

He said he is committed to the city of York.

When a reporter asked about his intentions behind the post, Shenk replied in a Facebook message, "It matters not what the intention was. It wounded. For that I am sorry. I hope to learn from my mistakes and learn from others who spoke into my life."

The school's origins date back to 1954 when Tidings of Peace Mennonite Church held its first service on a Sunday morning, according to the school's website. In 1994, the congregation voted to open a Christian day school "to answer the call of several in the community that were asking us to give an alternative to the public school system," the school's website says.

The school had an enrollment of 30 elementary students and 17 secondary students in the 2016-17 school year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. More than 76 percent of students were from low-income families.

Shenk said he hopes to gain forgiveness from members of the community and looks to have better communication in the future.

"I trust people who were offended can extend mercy and forgiveness to me," he said in a Facebook message.

For her part, Thompson expressed appreciation for the apology.

"I thought that was very brave because not a lot of people in his position would have done so, very sincere," Thompson said.

She thinks an apology is the first step. The next step, she said, is to have conversation and better training for those working within the city.


This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record.

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