PHRC releases statement on death of Dauphin County student

Harrisburg, PA- The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) has been made aware of the death of a 16-year-old Central Dauphin High School student. Police in Lower Paxton Township are investigating. According to the police, on Friday, April 26, he went into cardiac arrest, was taken to the hospital and later died.

The school district released the following statement about the incident,

"The Central Dauphin School District is saddened to hear about the passing of Justin Johnson, a 10th grade student at Central Dauphin High School.

We understand that the circumstances around Justin's death have not been determined, however there are social media reports that indicated that Justin was subjected to racial insensitivity from classmates.

Please understand that this type of behavior is not consistent with our core values and our vision of making sure everyone is valued and connected. Hate speech or any behavior that denigrates another person's rights will not be tolerated and is not consistent with the mission, vision, and values of CDSD.

We are aware of the social media posts and are cooperating with local law enforcement."  

"The PHRC is heartbroken over the death of Justin Johnson, and we extend our support and condolences to his friends and family," said PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. "We are aware and very concerned of the alleged racist actions and will continue to monitor the incident. Hate has no place in Pennsylvania, and the PHRC stands committed to making sure everyone has the right to education, employment, housing and commercial property, and public accommodation free from discrimination. If you feel you have experienced discrimination, we urge you to contact the PHRC and file a complaint. It is only through speaking up that we can end hatred and discrimination."

"We are aware that police are still investigating," said PHRC Civil Rights Outreach Coordinator Supervisor Sheryl Meck, M.S. "We encourage anyone who has experienced acts of discrimination or hate, to contact the PHRC regional office closest to you. If the issue cannot be investigated through a formal complaint with the PHRC, it will be reported to the Civil Rights Outreach Division for consideration."

In 2024, the PHRC established a Civil Rights Outreach Division to address civil tensions, conflict, and incidents in communities and promote anti-racism through education and outreach. Through this division, the PHRC can:

  • Provide complex facilitation and conflict resolution services for communities facing conflicts and tensions related to race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, LGBTQ+ status, national origin, familial status, or disability status pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
  • Provide training and consultation services to public officials and community representatives and provide them with the skills and mechanisms necessary to prevent and resolve future tensions.
  • Lead local projects or initiatives in conjunction with communities to prevent conflict.
  • Engage in proactive outreach to educate the public about the dangers of bias and hate and the importance of anti-racism.

The PHRC, the state's civil rights enforcement agency, promotes equal opportunity for all and enforces Pennsylvania's civil rights laws that protect people from unlawful discrimination. The PHRC does not have the authority to charge or investigate hate crimes or criminal offenses; however, the PHRC does track incidents reported to us and can help determine if the incident also violates the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. To report a hate crime, contact your local police department or the Pennsylvania State Police.

The PHRC offers specific training tailored to the needs of an organization on many topics, which among others, include the following:

  • Civil Rights Law and PHRC Jurisdiction
  • PHRC Overview & How to File a Complaint
  • Bullying and Harassment Prevention
  • Bias and Hate Speech
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging (DEIB)
  • Cultural Awareness

The goal of every training and event is to always promote equal opportunity, and help communities, public agencies, businesses, and schools prevent or eliminate illegal discrimination.

The PHRC urges anyone who has experienced discrimination or hate to file a complaint with the PHRC by calling 717-787-4410.  Information and resources are also available at 


PHRC Media Contact Details

Amanda Brothman

Communications Director 771-856-5971
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Media