The incident occurred in the midst of the high Jewish holidays and a week before Yom Kippur, known as the day of atonement. Sernovitz said Yom Kippur’s message “that we can always change and we can always do better” applies to Cobb Schools.
“There is a bigger conversation we need to have within Cobb County and in the rest of our country wrestling with the demons of those who believe we shouldn’t stand up for the minority community and for those who have been persecuted,” said Sernovitz. “United we stand, divided we fall. I look to Cobb Schools and the superintendent to do the right thing.”
The antisemitism occurred amid a vandalism spree that included wrenching off bathroom mirrors, sinks and soap dispensers, smearing of feces on walls and placing rats in lockers, according to students and parents.
“Anytime students misbehave, and, in this case, disrespect individual students, people, groups, and their school, we find it unacceptable. The principal has engaged with community groups who have been affected by this student behavior, and all applicable district policy and law will be applied,” said a Cobb Schools spokeswoman in response to a request for a statement.
A letter sent home Friday to Pope parents failed to mention swastikas or antisemitism, saying instead, “Several students have defaced our beautiful school with hateful graffiti and also damaged our facilities ... Disturbing acts like what occurred this week have no place in our district or at our school and will not be tolerated.”
“Words have meaning,” said Pope parent Jennifer Mosbacher. “By consciously omitting the words swastika and antisemitism from the language used in the letter to parents, Dr. Flugum is displaying an indifference to the actual hate crime that occurred and perpetuating the marginalization of Jewish students. I have stood on the streets of Auschwitz. I have prayed at the ovens in Birkenau. And I have marched in solidarity with Holocaust survivors from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust remembrance day. I have a very clear understanding of where the intersection of apathy and hate leads. By not calling out antisemitism for the act it is, we allow hate to flourish in our community.”
Sernovitz understands the district wants to avoid upsetting parents who don’t want a negative light cast on the school or its students and maintain their child wasn’t involved and thus does not need to be part of any follow-up.
“Yes, we have a school with wonderful students, and that is why when things like this happen, where students of the high school have perpetrated acts of hate and vandalism, we need to double down on their education,” he said. “We need to say to the student majority who didn’t do this that you need to be allies. You need to be advocates. It is great that parents have a wonderful child — we applaud those amazing kids — but we need to teach our kids to teach other kids that these kinds of acts are wrong.”