The following was sent to the South Orange Middle School community by Principal Lynn Irby on Tuesday afternoon:
To our SOMS families:
Today, it was brought to our attention that hate speech was written in one of the bathroom stalls. The words “Naughty N***ers Get Lynched” were found. This was reported to the SOPD as a hate crime, and is under full investigation. This is extremely disheartening and concerning, especially following our ongoing lessons and discussions about racism, bigotry, and Anti-Semitism.
This rhetoric is not accepted here and we are making every effort to identify the student(s) involved and to turn this into a teaching opportunity for our children. As an immediate response to this hate speech, a town hall took place today with 7th and 8th graders to talk about the hurtful words that were written. 6th grade students will be addressed tomorrow.
Our goals at SOMS are to reinforce tolerance within our community and to have our students pride themselves on inclusivity and acceptance. This can only happen if students recognize the seriousness of hate speech, reflect on it, and learn how to reject this type of hate—both at home and within the school community. In our efforts to continue to make our school a welcoming community, we ask that you please speak with your children at home too. Frank conversations about acceptance of race, gender, and religion are much needed during this time.
When we were accepted into the “No Place for Hate” program, we joined a nationally recognized initiative to combat issues of hate and to minimize incidents of bias and bigotry from happening again in the future. This is an ongoing process and we will continue to be diligent in our efforts, and hope that families will join us in helping our students.
In addition, our school is looking to partner with community leaders to bring additional awareness to this issue, and to educate our children further, so that we can have a better understanding of people who may be of a different race, religion, or other identity group. Our primary goal is to teach acceptance. We hope that these conversations will continue in classrooms and at home around the dinner table.
We appreciate your partnership.
Lynn A. Irby