Thursday, December 22, 2016

What's Going On in Lancaster?

My social media was ablaze today with reports that a Jewish family had "fled" their home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania over false reports by Fox and Breitbart that they were responsible for the canceling of a school Christmas play. Local news also reports their children had been harassed by classmates due to the report. But the ADL investigated and said that the family had simply left on a previously scheduled vacation, and that the claims that they "fled" are a panic-inducing fiction. What's going on?

Unfortunately, the original local story is behind a paywall so I can't read it. My suspicion is that the real story is something like the following:
  1. The children experienced some harassment over the false reports that their family was responsible for canceling the play (this part of the original reporting does not appear to be in dispute, though the ADL does not address it).
  2. The family had a previously-scheduled vacation, and expressed some sentiment to the effect of it being nice to have some time away to allow things to cool down.
  3. Overzealous journalists took #2 and elevated/amplified it until it became the overblown claim that the family had "fled" town.
Of course, that's speculation on my part. Without access to the original story or more robust follow-up reporting, we won't know.


Rebecca said...

This is the report from the Lancaster online (I registered for the site so I have access to the story):

A Hempfield elementary school is under fire for ending its longstanding production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” and a Jewish family has fled the county in fear because it’s being blamed for the cancellation.

The unfolding controversy at Centerville Elementary School played out this week in national conservative media outlets including FOX News and Breitbart News Network, which portray the school’s move as part of a “war on Christmas.”

The school, however, has said it put an end to the play this year because it took 15 to 20 hours of classroom time to produce.

The play has been a tradition at the school for more than three decades.

The fifth-grader’s parents, who spoke to LNP on the condition that they not be named, say they didn’t complain about the play or request that it be canceled, but just asked in September if their child could be excused from the play, and were told yes.

Since the school announced the cancellation in November, however, they say the child has been harassed by classmates.

Principal Tom Kramer, who is in his first year at the school, posted a letter on the school website on Dec. 15 confronting rumors “that one or two families influenced this decision” to cancel the play.

“That’s just not true,” he wrote.

The instructional time was the school’s primary concern, he said, but added that the decision also “is rooted in the desire to be respectful of the many cultural and religious backgrounds represented by the students.”

Parents and staffers offered a chance to revive the play outside of classroom time have not stepped forward to make that possible, he added.

‘Not taking any chances’

Since the Fox and Breitbart stories, a spokeswoman for the school district said, the school has received at least 200 emails and phone calls either supporting or objecting to the decision or asking for additional information.

The Jewish student’s parents say some of the reactions to the stories frightened them.

After seeing reader comments like “It would be nice if we had the addresses of those concerned citizens and, I bet, this info is known to people living in the area” on the Breitbart story, the parents pulled their child out of school and headed out of the area for a bit.

“There’s no way we’re going to take a chance after the pizza incident,” they said, referencing the man who fired an assault rifle in a Washington D.C area pizzeria after reading a fake-news story that said Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of there.

For now, they’re waiting to see what happens, but hope to be able to keep their child in the school.

“We've seen some really beautiful things from the people in this community,” the mother told LNP.

Rebecca said...

See also the Washington Post story -

Unknown said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing! I missed this somehow. I grew up in Lancaster county and I can't say I'm surprised. I feel like my experiences there informed how I viewed Jewishness and anti-Semitism later in life. There was plenty of subtle anti-Semitism around me as a kid in Lancaster. I started out in Centerville Middle and finished at Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore Maryland. Later in life, I became active in radical politics (including pro-Palestine). A sticking point, and something that ultimately drove me from radical politics, was that I kept insisting that yes, anti-Semitism IS a problem. The other radical Baltimorian Jews didn't agree. I don't think they grew up with other children telling them they were going to hell. I wonder what those same Jews would say post Bannon.