Trending: Hate crimes in New Jersey schools

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Trending: Hate crimes in New Jersey schools

Kayla Butera and Nicole Boutsikaris

On Nov. 29, graffiti targeting religious, LGBTQ+ and racial groups was found at EIS. The next day, EIS held grade-level meetings to denounce this unacceptable behavior.

There are conflicting reports on whether the the individual responsible has been identified. It’s the second incident in Westfield Public Schools in two months. In October, a swastika was etched in the bathroom of Franklin Elementary School during the state-mandated “Week of Respect.” It was Franklin’s second swastika in two years.

While we have no tolerance for any expressions or acts of hate, our district should not be defined by a few isolated incidences,” said Superintendent Margaret Dolan in an email. “I believe the broader issue is the existence of hate groups in our country and around the world.” And judging from the recent events in EIS and Franklin, schools are not immune to the presence of hate crimes.

Also, in October, Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School’s walls were sprayed with racial and religious slurs, along with a swastika, the number 666 and images of genitalia, according to nj.com. More recently, in late November, a Summit middle school’s bathroom was defaced with swastikas, and several days later, Summit High School was also found with offensive graffiti on campus. Other NJ schools affected by hate crimes include Ridgewood, Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills.

In an age of technology, Dr. Dolan believes the presence of hate groups on the internet can make their “hateful messages easily accessible.” In order to combat this hatred and bigotry, the Westfield school system has encouraged a strong focus on social and emotional learning, which emphasizes the importance of respecting others’ perspectives. This learning is woven across many courses, particularly in English and History classes.

EIS Principal Matthew Bolton stated in an email to EIS parents and teachers, “Please know that every day we work through planned lessons and activities, read texts, and [give] school-wide programs to ensure that our students respect one another and appreciate each other’s differences.”