A White school superintendent in Chester County, Pennsylvania, told her constituents that a brown doll found hanging in a locker room ceiling with a mouth filled with toothpaste to look like foam was just a “foolish prank,” not a hate crime, NBC10 reported. A viewer reported the photo of the “Black doll” that is actually a Moana doll modeled after a Disney Princess from an ancient Polynesian village. The doll’s skin was dark enough to raise eyebrows in a district plagued by racist incidents.
In an open letter, Superintendent Cathy Taschner told community members that she’d interviewed Coatesville Cross Country team members to investigate the effigy. She said “both white and black” team members confirmed that “this was a foolish prank and the intent was not to cause racial intimidation.”
Taschner’s comments could be part of the district’s attempt to “rebrand” after racist incidents there gained national attention last year. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Coatesville Area School District recently hired a communications firm to improve the its image. A “former superintendent and athletic director were caught sending racist and sexist texts, and about 100 teachers have left” in the last few years.
Last December, Taschner responded to allegations that Coatesville High School students were targets of racial slurs at a football game at North Penn High School, the Daily Local reported. Taschner wrote, “Our students felt threatened and unwelcomed in an environment and event that should be inclusive and respectful.” At a March basketball game, Coatesville High students greeted North Penn students with “candy and positive messages” such as “Spread love, not hate,” the Daily Local reported.
If the latest incident is any indication, conciliatory gestures and expensive PR haven’t done much for the district’s race problem. Though she denied any racism, Taschner did call the lynched doll “foolish and offensive,” before she plugged the “positive” student groups formed to address racism.