Skip Navigation

2 Berks County school boards dealing with issues around hateful symbolism

  • Katie Knol
A garage belonging to Christina Moyer, according to county property records, saying

 Jordan Wilkie / WITF

A garage belonging to Christina Moyer, according to county property records, saying "Heil Hitler" in faded paint. The property abuts Oley Valley High School's parking lot. The words have since been painted over. Pictured on May 15, 2024.

Two school boards in Berks County are grappling with separate controversies surrounding a recently appointed board member in the Oley Valley school district and a former nominee to the Daniel Boone school district. 

In Oley Valley, new board member Christina Moyer has faced a backlash after community members noticed a swastika and the words “Heil Hitler” painted on her garage. 

WITF confirmed the words and design in faded paint on a garage that abutted the Oley Valley High School property as of May 15, what was scheduled to be Moyer’s first board meeting. She did not attend. County property records showed the land belonged to Moyer. 

Moyer did not respond to WITF’s request for comment. 

An Oley Valley mom and frequent speaker during public comment portions of board meetings, Rachel Winterstine said the swastika and words had been on Moyer’s house for over a decade, and “she can’t paint over hate.” 

Winterstine and a group of community members are planning a protest on Wednesday ahead of the next school board meeting. She is also part of an online petition demanding Moyer’s removal from the school board, which has at least 250 signatures. Winterstine’s Facebook page “Oley Valley School Board: Prioritizing Students, Not Politics” has over 600 members.

The OVSD high school hallway outside the board meeting, showing a Confucius quote, "To see what is right and not do it is a lack of courage."

Jordan Wilkie

The OVSD high school hallway outside the board meeting.

In the U.S., symbols like the swastika commonly show up as a form of social intimidation during times of racial progress, according to William Horne, the Arthur J. Ennis Postdoctoral Fellow at Villanova University.

He said it is even more worrying when people in positions of power use those symbols. 

“It speaks to the fears and the concerns of people who see these people in positions of power and are worried about their policies, worried about things that they’re openly calling for, and worrying about things that are very harmful to their communities,” said Horne.

Less than seven miles away, Daniel Boone Area School Board members debated whether flying the Confederate flag should bar a nominee from filling their vacant position. 

Until Monday night, the board was deadlocked at a 4-4 vote that would decide between two nominees to fill an open seat on the board until the next election cycle. 

Judi Lumis defended her decision to fly the flag during her public interview with the board before the vote. Lumis said she believes the flag is a symbol of her family history, who she said fought on both the Union and Confederate sides in the Civil War. 

Lumis has since removed herself from the running. She said she discovered she isn’t eligible to sit on a school board because she is a treasurer in Manheim Township. 

“The people slandering me got their way, so the issue has been dropped,” she said in an email. 

But during the May 20 meeting, board member Tanya Bell said her colleagues shouldn’t elect someone who would fly that flag. 

“To elect someone that has shown a lack of social awareness for something completely offensive to an entire group of people is appalling to me,” Bell said.

Board President Russell Jirik, who voted in support of Lumis, said he also has a Confederate flag and said it doesn’t symbolize racism but a “symbol of being rebellious.” 

Jirik responded via email to WITF’s questions on behalf of the district and declined requests for interviews with board members. 

“We feel additional comments on this topic would be detrimental to our goals of unifying our community,” he wrote. 

Villanova’s Horne, like Lumis, said he also had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, but understands there is a clear movement behind the use of the flag, which keeps him away from using it. 

“It’s associated with white supremacy, with lynching, with hate,” he said. “I think there are different ways for me personally to honor my ancestors, while also acknowledging they were fighting for something that was really harmful and terrible.” 

While Daniel Boone board members disagreed about whether or not Lumis should be held accountable for posts made years ago, Horne said it’s natural for public officials to face a higher level of scrutiny. 

For him, the circumstances matter when deciding on accountability.

“Does that mean there should be sort of an apology and a disavowal that’s expected of them? I think that might be reasonable,” Horne said. “That still is a really important issue for the public when something like that has been a part of someone’s past and what we should demand of those people really does depend on that context.” 

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next
Regional & State News

Jay-Z's Roc Nation to drum up support for private school vouchers in Philadelphia