Reading Dealing with Another Anti-Semitic Incident
Oct 30, 2018 06:00AM
● By Lisa Redmond
“We are disheartened and disappointed to report that another swastika was found in a classroom…,’’ School Superintendent John Doherty wrote in a letter posted on the school website.
The discovery in the science lab is the latest in a series of swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs that have been found at the high school, both middle schools, the town’s public library and other public places since 2017, according a list compiled by the Reading Police Department.
In an Oct. 27 letter sent out to RMHS families and staff, Principal Kathleen M. Boynton said a staff member reported a student found swastikas etched in pencil on the legs of a table in a science lab.
Boynton wrote that she is “profoundly dismayed’’ by the latest discovery of a swastika at the high school. The swastika was lightly etched on the desk and difficult to see except at a certain angle and lighting. There was no threat written as part of the graffiti.
The image was removed and there was a thorough sweep of all the furniture in that classroom. No additional images were found. Building crews then did a sweep of the building looking for graffiti drawn in pen, pencil or marker. There will be additional sweeps of the building over the next few weeks.
“Unfortunately, we continue to have these graffiti-related incidents in our schools and in our community,’’ she wrote. “The swastika symbolizes the hate and anti-Semitism and there is no place for these types of hateful actions or behaviors in our schools or the greater Reading community.’’ Doherty agreed.
“This type of behavior is not acceptable in our school community and we will continue to do our diligence as a school district to investigate these incidents, take action when necessary, and educate our students on the meaning of these hateful symbols,’’ he wrote.
Toward that end, over the past few years, RMHS staff has focused their efforts on making their core values focused on respect, responsibility, perseverance and scholarship come to life “as we continue to build a community that embraces diversity.’’
Last year, Dr. Anna Ornstein, a Holocaust survivor, spoke with students at an assembly hosted by the student club, A World of Difference, which is sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. Students and staff also trained as upstanders and RMHS hosted the Unity Project, a powerful interactive public art project about embracing differences.
This year, students began the school year with Community Day, which was an entire day of devoted to the school’s core values and to build a positive RMHS community, Boynton wrote.
A World of Difference Club, along with several student leadership organizations, such as Peer Leaders, Rocket Ambassadors and Student Council, have more training planned throughout the year.
Boynton noted that on Oct. 21 a community rally drew hundreds of people who came together to speak out against hate and anti-Semitism.
As for the graffiti, Boynton said, “We seek to find those responsible for these acts and we must continue to educate our entire community if we hope to prevent these acts from reoccurring.’’