By Alisha Ebrahimji and Michelle Watson, CNN
A Virginia school district has apologized for distributing T-shirts with a logo resembling a swastika during a professional learning conference.
During the conference held for staff this week, Hanover County Public Schools distributed T-shirts and conference materials containing the logo, which the district says had been designed by one of its teachers.
The logo was intended “to represent four hands and arms grasping together — a symbol of unity for our all-county professional learning conference. Nothing more,” Michael Gill, superintendent of the district situated north of Richmond, said in an online message.
“We are deeply sorry for this mistake and for the emotions that the logo has evoked by its semblance to a swastika and, by extension, to the atrocities that were committed under its banner,” Gill said. “Unquestionably, we condemn anything associated with the Nazi regime in the strongest manner possible.”
Gill said the apology comes after concerns about the logo were raised, and that the district understands that the logo “has deeply upset members of our staff and community who see the logo as resembling a swastika.”
Photos of the shirt were posted on the Hanover County Schools Facebook page, according to CNN affiliate WTVR, but have since been removed.
The images circulated widely on social media and were reposted by Rachel Levy, a public school advocate, parent and Virginia House of Delegates candidate running in 2023.
Last month, an elementary school in Georgia redesigned their school’s logo for a second time after parents pointed out its resemblance to a swastika.
Daniel Staffenberg, chief executive of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, said he appreciated the school system’s quick response.
“In partnership with the school board, we will continue to address this incident and ensure that Jewish students, families, and all vulnerable minorities unsettled by this logo are represented in the cities and school systems they inhabit,” he said in an online statement.
The group and its partners reached out to Gill by letter and plan on scheduling a meeting to discuss next steps in making sure “the voice of Jewish students and those of other minority faiths are heard and respected.”
The district serves about 17,000 students, who are on summer break and are scheduled to resume classes September 6.
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