Members of Hanover's Jewish community speak out after logo sparks outrage: 'We can't make these excuses'

Members of Hanover's Jewish community speak out after logo sparks outrage: 'We can't make these excuses'
Posted at 11:31 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 16:16:47-04

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- Outrage and anger have rippled through the Hanover community after a picture of a t-shirt portraying a logo that many people believe represents a swastika circulated online.

The t-shirt in question was worn by Hanover County Public Schools' staff members during a teacher training day.

Two Jewish Hanover residents who asked to remain anonymous were among the many calling for accountability.

“When you see that symbol there is no doubt that that is what that symbol means. For people to think it’s okay to promote that symbol or continue to use that symbol shows an ignorance that training would be great for, or these people are willfully saying I am okay with that and what happened,” said one resident.

Dozens of people also commented on the post in outrage before the Hanover school district took the image down.

Concerned residents feel that actions like these will set a bad example for kids who learn from adults what is acceptable. They also expressed concerns over other recent issues in the school district, saying there has been a history in the last year of incidents like this.

They cited the school board not adopting model policies required by law for transgender students and an incident in which the district only put out an image featuring Christmas symbols.

"It's frustrating that this continues to happen and there doesn't seem to be any urgency or any sensitivity."

Jonathon Zur at the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities believes that the questionable logo on the shirt is something that could have easily been caught.

He believes that with proper training like his organization does and better oversight from an inclusion board could have prevented this. Zur is concerned both that someone didn't catch it and that those who saw it chose to ignore it.

“I think everything that a public school district that represents the public is putting out should have some level of review,” he said.

Zur believes that there is an opportunity for training in response to this incident and he hopes the district will make a change following the incident.

The Hanover Patriots group condemned the logo and called for school board to "immediately investigate the creation and distribution of the logo and make public the findings."

Additionally, the group asked the board to "immediately suspend the Community Equity Advisory Board until further notice as well as any Professional Development including Equity as well as Equity as a policy in HCPS until a community hearing on Equity is held."

CBS 6 spoke with Hanover County Public Schools to discuss their process for reviewing logos. A spokesperson for the district did not give a specific answer but said that the process is informal and they are reevaluating it at this time.

They added that while the school district has a diversity and inclusion board that meets monthly, it is not established for this board to review the division's materials, logos and curriculum.

The district said following this incident, they are reviewing the process for evaluating logos.

Hanover's Superintendent Michael Gill issued a statement to the community on Wednesday morning in response to the logo.

In the statement, he said he is deeply sorry for the mistake and the emotions that the logo evoked. He also said that the district is confident that the logo was created without ill intent because those who designed the logo believed they were representing four hands and arms grasping together.

Gill said they believed it was a symbol of unity for the all-county professional learning conference.

As of Wednesday night, the district has not made clear if anything will change due to this incident, a response that is leaving many community members to push for accountability.

“What we say matters, what we do matters, it’s time to stop making excuses for Hanover County Schools. Their policies are not inclusive and we can’t make these excuses anymore," one of the anonymous Hanover residents said.

A spokesperson for Governor Glenn Youngkin shared the following statement in response to the logo:

We will not tolerate antisemitism in the Commonwealth. That is why the Governor created the Commission to Combat Antisemitism on day one of his administration. The Governor condemns any reference to swastikas and appreciates the Hanover County Public School system’s swift response to correct this.