Anti-Semitism strikes at WHS

Jake White

According to school officials, swastikas were found at WHS on Oct. 25.  Authorities are currently investigating the incident, said Principal Mary Asfendis .

Ms. Asfendis emailed parents last Friday, detailing that law enforcement was immediately notified and the swastikas were removed. No further specifics, such as the size of or the location of the drawings, were released. 

School officials did, however, condemn the drawings in the strongest possible way. Superintendent of Westfield Public Schools Margaret Dolan said to Tap Into Westfield, “Hate of any kind against anyone is not who we are as a district nor will it be tolerated.” 

WHS students are also upset about this anti-Semtitic act. “As a Jewish student, I am disappointed that someone would draw this image,” said senior Spencer Rothfleisch. “The person who drew this has no idea what it was like [for those who did] experience the Holocaust.”

This isn’t the first time that the Westfield School District has had an issue with anti-Semitic drawings. Last year, a swastika was found etched in a bathroom at Franklin Elementary School. Several weeks later, a 13-year-old who attended EIS was charged with five counts of criminal mischief concerning offensive graffiti that was found in a school bathroom. In June of the same school year, then-WHS Interim Principal James DeSarno sent an email to parents informing them that swastikas had been found drawn in the high school as well. 

Asfendis addressed the student body the Monday following the incident, and reiterated WHS’ commitment to participation in No Place for Hate, a program in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, to combat bias and bullying. “We will do three or four activities throughout the school year that will address bias and incidents in our school,” said Asfendis. “The good thing is that we are always aware of this. We’ve already had these things in place before this.” One program that was specifically mentioned was the Transition program for freshmen students. 

Rothfleisch feels that some of these programs need to be better implemented into the school curriculum. “The school should be more active in education about events like the Holocaust,” said Rothfleisch. “Students should be educated more on the Holocaust [through assemblies] so they understand the insensitivity of what they are doing.”

Asfendis remains positive about the integrity of the WHS student body. “Hopefully it will raise the awareness for our WHS community—we support one another, we respect our differences, and we treat each other well,” said Asfendis. “This one person, I hope, is our exception rather than the norm.”