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State College Area School District hopes to dispel misinformation about an altercation between two students

Students filled the stairs inside the State College Area High School in 2018.
Min Xian
State High students filled the stairs in this file photo from 2018. The school district says it is “distressed by the substantial amount of misinformation being conveyed to the community” surrounding a February 1, 2022 altercation between two State High students.

A substantial amount of misinformation has been circulating regarding an assault that happened at the State College Area High School earlier this month, State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said during a Monday night Board of Directors meeting.

The school district is “distressed by the substantial amount of misinformation being conveyed to the community” surrounding a February 1st altercation between two State High students.

O’Donnell said the two students, one Black and the other white, who did not know each other before the incident, engaged in a physical altercation in a hallway outside a classroom door for about 20 seconds that day. By the time teachers nearby arrived, the incident had ended.

He said the school district interviewed all witnesses and reviewed both school surveillance videos and those taken by bystanders.

Neither of the students involved said the N-word during the altercation, O’Donnell said, nor were there reports of intimidation related to either student during this school year. The district said it was unaware of a photo of the white student that included racist language and antisemitic symbols, which was taken last fall.

“Contrary to some assertions, the photo had not been circulating widely on social media for five months. Rather, we understand the image was texted within days before the physical altercation,” O’Donell said.

Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna released a statement on Friday, saying this matter is in juvenile court and it’s not true that his office is pursuing criminal charges or jail time.

Community groups have objected to the handling of this incident by the school district and the DA, saying they’re perpetuating bias against Black youths. A GoFundMe campaign created by the State College NAACP has raised more than $33,000 for legal fees for the Black student.

SCASD said it owes it to both students, who are minors, to “help them learn from this and develop a path to move forward successfully.”

“We have developed and are implementing a lesson for all State High students that incorporates student voice to help students recognize and respond to incidents involving racism, antisemitism, and violence,” O’Donell told the school board.

“The issue of student mental health concern and some of the emotional and behavioral issues that we’ve had at our high school have been a really major concern this school year,” school board president Amber Concepcion said following O’Donnell’s report Monday. “It’s a big focus of our district to focus on the wellbeing of all the kids in our schools and to support them to be the kind of students we know they should be, or that they’re capable of being.”

Min Xian reported at WPSU from 2016-2022.
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