Are we doing enough to stop hate at WHS?

Jake White, Business Manager

On Nov. 1, I wrote an article about a swastika that was found drawn at WHS, which marked the latest publicized anti-Semitic act at WHS. 

There have been several occasions of anti-Semitic drawings at Westfield Public Schools over the past year. Yet, the most recent act seemed to be the breaking point for WHS. In response to the graffiti, WHS held a school-wide assembly led by guest speaker Detective David D’Amico and presented students with a pledge to sign as a promise to stop hate at WHS. 

It’s tough to determine whether or not these school-wide events are necessary and will work. That being said, I think WHS is taking the appropriate steps in dealing with the issue at hand. If this problem only occurred once, it’s acceptable to say that the drawing was just an outlier and it doesn’t represent the school community. However, after multiple occurences, there comes a point when we need to address the problem. Instead of chalking it up to being another outlier and doing nothing, WHS did admit there was a serious problem and took the steps to try and fix it, but I don’t think it’s working. 

The assembly recently held showed some very disturbing, hateful imagery and did a good job challenging WHS students to be better citizens. But, besides D’Amico’s one reference to the swastika that was drawn, the hour-long assembly focused mainly on other forms of hate that have taken place in the U.S. over the years. It didn’t really address the issue at hand and simply reiterated to the students that they shouldn’t be hateful to other groups of people. I would have liked him to connect it more to the hate crimes in our school. 

The pledge also didn’t help solve the problem. By having students sign this, they are, again, just restating that they are not bigoted. Any students who were biased before this are still going to be biased after signing — so what purpose does this even serve?

The Westfield School District and many parents already do a good job teaching their children to be kind to others. D’Amico said at the beginning of his speech, “There is no hate in this room.” This is a bold statement, but it’s close to being true. The people who have defaced WHS property through anti-Semitic drawings probably didn’t do it out of hate, but rather because they think it’s funny and falsely believe it doesn’t actually hurt anyone. Like what Annie Cerria’s article on dark humor discusses, ignorance and the desire to be edgy could’ve fueled this.  

Students need to learn that jokes like these are offensive to many people. Perhaps an assembly consisting of stronger Holocuast education and maybe even hearing from a Holocaust survivor could make students learn that these anti-Semitic “jokes” cross a line. 

This first assembly was the first of three school-wide events WHS will be doing as part of the ADL. The other two will be held later in the year and have yet to be scheduled. We shall see if these events will address the problems at WHS directly, or just attempt to open up more conversations about race and hate.