Schools Respond to Hate Speech

Will Boberski and Matthew Stashower

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This fall, publicized incidents of hate speech have occurred next door at Staples High School, where several examples of anti-Semitic graffiti were recently discovered in the Staples bathrooms.

According to Staples administration, some of the graffiti appeared to have been there for several years because paint was already chipping off of the marks. When the administration at Staples found out about it, they immediately notified Interim Superintendent, David Abbey, who emailed all parents to describe the events at Staples.

According to BMS principal, Dr. Rosen, “Within minutes of us finding out at Bedford, we started a thorough building search for copycat marks.” They did not find anything. Both Bedford and Staples also worked with the Connecticut Anti-Defamation League to address hate within its community. Over the summer, teachers at Staples participated in an ADL program called Brave Conservation, enabling them to broach divisive subjects with students.

Staples hopes to have these conversations, among others, in a weekly advisory program called Connections. At Bedford, hate was addressed through education. Dr. Rosen said, “The leader of the social studies department, who works at both BMS and SHS, worked with the ADL to provide materials to the teachers.” Some students may have heard these presentations in their social studies classes.

According to Staples principal, Mr. Thomas, it may not have happened this school year. The students never reported it, even though they probably did see it. Mr. Thomas said that most of the graffiti in question could have been covered up by a large Post-It.

Both principals have strong messages for the Bedford student body. Mr. Thomas wanted students know if they see it, report it. Students should also cover up any graffiti so the next person does not have to see it. “You should do the right thing,” the principal said. According to Mr. Thomas, you feel safe at school not because these types of incidents have stopped happening, but because the “rest of the community is supporting the values you hold.”

Dr. Rosen also had similar messages for Bedford, encouraging students to protect and stand up for one another and to “Hold each other accountable.” Dr Rosen also said. “If hate symbols are ever seen, we need to know about it.”
Westport is not alone in tackling these types of issues.

They have also occurred in other towns in the area such as Darien, New Rochelle, New York, and in New Haven at the Yale School of Law.

In fact, the entire United States has recently been experiencing an increase of anti-Semitic incidents. However, we can combat the influence of hate in our community. Just remember: if you see it, report it, and take a stand for one another. In the words of Mr. Thomas, “If it impacts one of us, it impacts all of us.”

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