TAHS Alumna Circulates Petition Asking TASD to Address Racial Discrimination

Over+1000+people+attended+the+Human+Rights+March+in+Altoona+PA+on+June+6%2C+2020+to+march+for+issues+of+racial+injustice+and+equality.

Photo courtesy of the Grey Medium: https://www.facebook.com/TheGreyMedium/videos/621342542150747/

Over 1000 people attended the Human Rights March in Altoona PA on June 6, 2020 to march for issues of racial injustice and equality.

A petition being circulated online asking the school district to formally address the issues of diversity education and protecting students of color from racial discrimination at school will be presented to the school district administration and board.

The petition was written by Haley Butina, a 2017 Tyrone Area High School graduate and current early childhood education major at Susquehanna University.

To say that myself, my younger sister, and [other students of color at TASD] haven’t experienced racial bias throughout our time at Tyrone would be a lie”

— Haley Butina, TAHS Class of 2017

“As our nation is experiencing major changes in the form of legislation and reforms, I feel that the Tyrone community should be asking ourselves how our small town can be a part of this momentous change,” said Butina, “As a future educator, I can attest to the fact the that most effective and impactful change transpires through the vessel of public education.”

Citing recent incidents of people in the community shouting “white power” and “N****er lovers” towards peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors along with a swastika allegedly spray-painted on trains at the local papermill, Butina believes that better education on racial issues is key to making the Tyrone community a more tolerant and inclusive community.

Butina’s petition asks the district to release a statement or plan outlining steps that will be taken to ensure that TASD students have access to an anti-racist education along with protecting students of color. Butina would also like to see the school bring in guest speakers of color to talk to the TASD students and staff.

According to Butina, she wrote the petition after witnessing the change that has been going on the past several weeks around the world and wondered how Tyrone could be a part of that change.

“I can attest that even as a minority student, myself along with my classmates entered the world after graduation lacking the tools needed to conduct difficult conversations regarding race and diversity, and more importantly, left us ignorant to the very real problems that are faced by minorities every single day,” said Butina.

With Butina being a person of color and an education major, she realizes the importance of education to these issues. She was also on the receiving end of incidents of racial bias while a student at Tyrone.

“To say that myself, my younger sister, and [other students of color at TASD] haven’t experienced racial bias throughout our time at Tyrone would be a lie,” said Butina.“We can’t expect people to act on ideas they don’t know about, and we can’t expect people to understand things they were never taught.”

Other current students of color at Tyrone High School agree. Senior Aminah Mutazz also wants to see the school address the issue in order to make Tyrone a safer school and inclusive to all students.

Mutazz feels that the school could help students of color by talking about race issues that have happened and are happening in the country.

“Tyrone can help by not just teachers talking at students but creating safe environments where we can talk about them with each other and ask uncomfortable questions,” said Mutazz.

Tyrone can help by not just teachers talking at students but creating safe environments where we can talk about them with each other and ask uncomfortable questions”

— Senior Aminah Mutazz

Tyrone sophomore Ashlynn McKinney has also experienced racism at Tyrone Area School District.

McKinney mentioned one incident in particular from grade school that left a lasting impression on her childhood. During a bathroom break in elementary school, a peer turned to her and her brother and said “You guys can’t stand with us. My mom said people like you are bad. Don’t come back to the line.”

McKinney feels that if the students at Tyrone Area High School were better educated on these subjects then the level of ignorance among students would go down.

“I feel many if not all the students and a lot of the staff have a level of ignorance towards minority issues and struggles,” said McKinney.

Butina wants to see change in public education so future generations don’t have to face the discrimination that she and her peers have faced at TASD.

“Future graduates of Tyrone will go into the world educated on minority history and issues that are faced in our world today, tolerant and accepting of different cultures and those of different skin-tones, and equipt to have the hard conversations that they will inevitably be faced with when they go into the real world,” said Butina.

Butina understands that controversy can stem from a statement like hers but her claim to the District is more important and a great cause that is held near to her heart.

“Change is not always easy, and from what I’ve been seeing online, I feel that there will be people that think that this is not a good idea,” said Butina.

The petition currently has over 230 signatures from students, alumni, parents, and teachers.

Butina has already met with Tyrone Superintendent Leslie Estep regarding the petition’s requests and was pleased with the meeting.

“The conversation was engaging, insightful, and positive as well as constructive and meaningful. The letter was also shared with the school board. I can’t wait to see what changes and initiatives that TASD has in mind. It was made clear to me that the district stands in solidarity with this cause,” said Butina.

To read the letter and sign the petition click HERE.