Greenbrier County Interim Superintendent of Schools responds to incidents of racism

By RealWV Staff,

LEWISBURG, W.Va.- The Greenbrier County Board of Education, on Tuesday, heard remarks from representatives of the ACLU of West Virginia, as well as Loretta Young, president of the Greenbrier County NAACP, regarding the recently documented displays of racist and abusive behavior at Greenbrier West High School. 

As first reported by Jessica Farrish with WVNS, the racist and aggressive harassment of the school’s exceptionally small percentage of minority children was allegedly excused by administrators and other adults in authority as being constitutionally-protected speech. 

Young’s remarks, as well as those from Eli Baumwell of the ACLU of West Virginia, called for action, accountability, and for the school to ensure a safe and comfortable learning environment for all students. On Wednesday, Greenbrier County Interim Superintendent of Schools Doug Clemons responded to the situation in the form of a written statement.

“The Greenbrier County Board of Education would like to thank Loretta Young, President of the Greenbrier County NAACP, for her leadership in organizing respectful and informative delegations at the April 9, 2024 regularly scheduled board meeting.  We look forward to continuing to work with Ms. Young and others in the community.  This unfortunate incident will be a learning opportunity for staff, students, and the community. 

The racist graffiti that was discovered at Greenbrier West High School is repulsive. This unfortunate incident does not reflect the amazing staff and overall wonderful student body at Greenbrier West High School. Board office staff have met with the teachers and groups of students.  All are committed to working together for the unity of this great school. Greenbrier County Schools stands united against racism and fully supports efforts to make all our schools safe, anti-racist places of learning and support for all. This incident is being thoroughly investigated so appropriate action can be taken. The investigation includes a private investigator and a professional handwriting analyst.  While we look forward to a resolution, we appreciate your understanding that due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), we will be unable to release the investigation results.  Board members have asked for and will receive an update on the investigation at a statutory meeting on April 16, 2024.

We care deeply about the well-being of our students and staff and have mental health support services available at each school. We strive to provide every student with specific academic, behavioral, social-emotional, mental, and physical health supports to meet their individual needs so that all students can remain fully engaged in school and access core instruction.

We are providing support to the students impacted in this situation by offering virtual instruction through the school system per the family’s wishes, as well as frequent contact with student support specialists Nancy Osborne and Monica Bowyer to communicate any other needs the students and family may have.  We will continue to support the students and the famy throughout our work on this issue.

Greenbrier County Schools is working to combat any form of bullying and harassment in our school system.  We will be providing specialized professional development for all staff as well as unifying support for the students at Greenbrier West.  We have been working to implement social justice and restorative practices to support the district’s efforts to address racism and improve equity, diversity, belonging, and inclusion for all.  On April 22, 2024, at Greenbrier West High School, we will have a remote learning day for Greenbrier West students.  Tanya Dallas-Lewis with Think Dignity Consulting will present Rethinking Diversity to all Greenbrier West Staff, administrators, and counselors county-wide.  On April 23, 2024, she will have small group trainings for students.  The sessions will focus on introducing staff and students to core principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.  The training will cultivate a learning environment where each member of the school community feels included and feels they belong.  

Additionally, Monica Bowyer and Nancy Osborne have implemented a support group for females at GWHS with five girls per lunch period to focus on esteem, friendship, and coping strategies.  During all lunches, they will set up a table to explain their services to students and will have make-and-take activities such as bracelet-making and mindfulness activities.  Nancy and Monica are working with Seneca Health Services to add an additional mental health counselor at the school if needed.  The Seneca Health Services Crisis Team will be available to students.  For the 2024-2025 school year, they will implement Heroes Among Us at GWHS, which is a peer mediation/support group modeled after a program in Fayette County Schools.  This will expand to other secondary schools the following year.

It takes real effort from all community members to combat racism and any form of bullying.  We encourage parents to speak to their children about not using racist language and refraining from any type of bullying.”

The RealWV will provide updates of this situation as additional information is made available.

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