Hanover superintendent apologizes for controversial logo
HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) - Hanover County Public Schools (HCPS) Superintendent Michael Gill has apologized for a logo that appeared on a shirt during a conference this week.
The shirt made its rounds on social media, with many users saying the logo looked like a swastika.
The school system says the design was first unveiled at a professional learning conference for faculty and staff and printed on shirts for them to wear. Shortly after its unveiling, an image of the logo made its rounds on social media, where it went viral and was immediately and nearly universally panned.
Current and former students say they are surprised no one caught the similarity with the infamous Nazi symbol until now.
“I don’t like it. I don’t want to use that word. I don’t like it in any way, shape or form,“ Hanover resident Bill Wyllie said.
“It’s clear on what it is and what it resembles, so I don’t know how it could get this far without people claiming they don’t know what it is,” rising senior James Poole said. “But I’m also not surprised. It got that far judging by, you know, just the county that we’re in.”
“I don’t know how you couldn’t see the symbol that’s there,” former HCPS student Gabbie Dunn said. “I’m glad they released an apology, but I don’t know that an apology is enough given the fact that they released the shirt.”
While many say the symbol bears a striking similarity to the infamous symbol, the school system says the teacher who designed the logo was trying to represent four hands and arms grasping together as a symbol of unity.
Residents like Bill Wiley said the logo still doesn’t convey the meaning the school system is seeking.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to me; I’m sorry,” Wyllie said.
“I don’t know how you couldn’t see the symbol that’s there. I think it’s very obvious,” Dunn said. “It’s obvious. I’m just shocked and disgusted they would release a shirt like that.”
Early Wednesday morning, the school system addressed the community by announcing that it would no longer distribute the design on the t-shirts that include the logo and that it was working to remove it from all conference materials.
“While we are confident that the logo was created without any ill-intent, we understand that this has deeply upset members of our staff and community who see the logo as resembling a swastika,” Gill said in an online statement.
NBC12 reached out to the school system about the costs associated with creating the log and its eventual removal. Assistant Superintendent Chris Whiteley said there were no costs with the creation or of the symbol. He also says that no replacement shirts will be made for this year’s education conference.
In response, the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond said it appreciated the swift response from the superintendent, but its CEO, Daniel Staffenberg, believes conversations must be had with the school for real healing to occur.
“I understand why people are angry. I, myself, am angry,” Staffenberg said. “I hope this was a simple oversight because the resemblance, while it’s not an official swastika, the resemblance would have raised a flag for many.”
Moving forward, Staffenberg says he wants to do whatever he can to assist Hanover County. To ensure they can not only take care of students and marginalized communities who might have been hurt by the symbol but also to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“What we are always focused on is building a relationship and open dialogue between the Jewish community and our leaders throughout the commonwealth, and I think that’s where this needs to start, and that will determine our outcome,” Staffenberg said.
In a statement, the Hanover NAACP also says they appreciate the school’s response but adds that the creation of the logo highlights the need for the Hanover Schools to hire a diversity director to ensure things like this never happen again.
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