PHRC statement on Cumberland County school's decision to cancel assembly

Harrisburg, PA- The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) has been made aware of Cumberland Valley School District's recent decision to cancel a planned middle school assembly. According to reports, the assembly was cancelled because of the guest speaker's "activism" and "lifestyle." The PHRC has learned that there is a special board meeting April 24 to discuss this decision.

Actor and author Maulik Pancholy was scheduled to speak to students at Mountain View Middle School on May 22. Pancholy, who is gay, visits schools to discuss bullying and promote inclusion. According to reports, members of the school board were concerned that his message was inappropriate.

"It is concerning to see a public school cancel an event about anti-bullying and inclusion," said PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. "This was an opportunity for students to hear from someone who they may relate to, and instead students are learning about exclusion and discrimination. I would also like to express support for the school's superintendent who is speaking against the school board's decision. As a commonwealth, we should be finding more opportunities to teach diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, not restricting them."

"This situation is an example of why representation in education matters," said PHRC Education & Outreach Director Desireé Chang, M.S.  "These students are seeing firsthand how a person can be discriminated against and excluded just by simply embracing parts of their identity openly. This is not the example we should be modeling to our students."

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
  • 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, the state's leading civil rights enforcement agency, promotes equal opportunity for all and enforces Pennsylvania's civil rights laws that protect people from unlawful discrimination. In August 2023, the PHRC released new regulations more clearly explaining the definition of sex to include sex assigned at birth, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, and differences in sex development. 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