HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Hanover Public Schools issued an official apology Wednesday after printing T-shirts with a logo that resembled a swastika and distributing them to staff at a professional development conference.
“We are deeply sorry for this mistake and for the emotions that the logo has evoked by its semblance to a swastika,” Superintendent Michael Gill wrote in an apology. “We condemn anything associated with the Nazi regime in the strongest manner possible.”
Three now-deleted Facebook posts from Hanover County Public Schools show the T-shirts, a color version of the logo (which was monochrome on conference T-shirts) and teachers participating on the first day of the Unified Professional Learning Conference.
Gill wrote that he believed the shirt design was “created without any ill-intent” by a teacher, and that the logo was intended to “represent four hands and arms grasping together” as a symbol of unity.
He added that the school division was no longer distributing the T-shirts, and that they were now attempting to remove the logo from all conference materials.
Photos of the T-shirt in question circulated online Wednesday morning, provoking heavy criticism of the school division.
Rachel Anne Levy, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in Hanover, criticized senior school officials.
“Note that Superintendent Mike Gill blames a teacher. Unacceptable,” she said. “NOTHING like that logo goes out or gets approved without his or his PR guy Chris Whitley’s say so.”
Emily Waters, a music educator from Charlottesville, wrote on Facebook over a photo of the t-shirt, “What the 🤬 Hanover County Public Schools??!?”
Meanwhile, the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond wrote that they “appreciate this swift response from Superintendent Michael Gill” and that they “look forward to continuing to work with the Hanover County Public School system as we all strive for an inclusive education space & community.”