On the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in in Judaism, a second Cobb high school reported someone scrawled a swastika and “Heil Hitler” on a bathroom door. This time, it was at Lassiter High School.
Amid a spree of vandalism that may be in response to a social media dare, someone drew a swastika and the words “Hail Hitler” on a bathroom wall at Pope High School Thursday. The news dismayed Jewish families and led Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, a Cobb parent and senior rabbi at Temple Kol Emeth in east Cobb, to come to the school on Friday to speak to students.
Parents were further upset when neither the district’s statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution nor a letter sent home to Pope parents identified the antisemitism behind the act, instead characterizing it as “hateful graffiti.”
The parents likely won’t be heartened by Cobb’s official response today to the Lassiter incident.
A Cobb spokeswoman said:
“A recent disturbing social media trend involving hate speech is unacceptable and distracting from our teachers' and students' ability to focus on teaching and learning. Our principals are engaging with students, teachers, parents, and community members about how to prevent the harmful and illegal behavior from happening. There is zero tolerance for actions that harm individual students, people groups or the school building, and all applicable district policies and laws will be applied."
The spokeswoman also said, “We encourage families to talk to their students about the impacts of inappropriate and dangerous trends circulating on social media. Parents, students, or staff members can report safety concerns to the District’s Tipline via call, text or email.”
However, the principal of Lassiter was far more direct about what happened. In a letter today to parents, Lassiter principal Chris Richie did not shy away from describing the incident as antisemitism, writing in part:
As we became aware of a recent social media trend and instances of hate speech/symbols around our community, we decided as an administrative team to reinforce a few behavior expectations with our students starting on Monday, September 13. We alerted our staff to potential trends, an announcement was made to all students, and our administrative team visited classes during our academic support and enrichment block to reiterate our expectations for student behavior.
Despite the time that we have spent talking to students as a class and having spent talking to students in smaller classroom settings, we did find two bathrooms where anti-Semitic symbols (swastikas) and anti-Semitic language (Heil Hitler) were displayed. In both locations, the deplorable symbols and language were behind stall doors.
I am both angered and saddened by the appearance of symbols and words of hatred in our school and community.
I do think it is important to first let parents know what occurred, to name it, and to let our students know that we condemn it. We are reviewing video footage, we are talking to kids, and our campus officer has filed a report.
When hate and ignorance surface in our school, we ask that parents engage in meaningful conversations and dialogue with your children. I can cite the Cobb County School District's Administrative Rule that these hate symbols/speech violate, and I can talk to students in the morning over the announcements about repercussions for this despicable act; however, for these disgusting acts to stop, we must all come together as a school and a community to commit that Lassiter High School will be a safe, respectful environment for all students, faculty, and staff. We must work together to teach our students to be better. Thank you for partnering with us and discussing this with your children.
This is an active investigation. Please reach out if your children know anything about this sickening act.
Local rabbis, in concert with the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations, sent a letter to the school board with a request to speak at the Sept. 23 board meeting. They hope to see an intentional plan by the district to address these antisemitic acts.
In a note today to members of Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner wrote, “While we will not stand idly by while our children are demoralized by anti-Semitic tropes and behaviors, we must also remember that most of these actions come from a place of ignorance. Please let us all remember to use our power in productive ways, ways that will bring light into darkened spaces and teach righteousness to the wayward.”