Anti-Semitic images posted on social media and verbal slurs several South Orange Middle School (SOMS) students allegedly made toward Jewish classmates have drawn a swift response from the school and district administration.
The incidents over the last couple of weeks included a SOMS student’s social media post featuring a collage of images of a swastika surrounded by Stars of David, symbols of the Soviet Union, raised middle fingers and a photo of the collapse of the World Trade Center, set against a background of the rainbow flag.
Another image, on a different student’s Instagram account, is a photo of two students standing on what appears to be a porch, looking into the distance. It is captioned, “views from the schwitz,” presumably a reference to Auschwitz; the caption ends with an emoji of a Star of David. The post received 89 likes.
Both posts have since been removed and one of the Instagram accounts has been deleted.
In addition, one SOMS parent reported that several Jewish students at the school have recently been the target of verbal anti-Semitic slurs, including “Jew-boy.”
Some families who saw the postings and learned about the comments reported them to SOMS administration, which acted quickly by reaching out to the families involved as well as to local community and religious leaders.
“When families shared concerns about instances of anti-Semitic images and comments recently posted by students, school administrators immediately initiated an investigation into the specific incidents, and addressed the climate and culture at SOMS,” said Supt. Dr. John Ramos in an email to The Village Green on Thursday.
“While student confidentiality bars us from discussing both the investigation and any resulting disciplinary action, the South Orange and Maplewood school community can rest assured that we take all issues of intolerance and bias extremely seriously, and will support all of the students involved, as well as the student body at large. SOMSD values and honors our commonalities and our differences. We are committed to ensuring that our schools are a safe and tolerant environment for all of our students and staff. We are planning several initiatives to promote tolerance and acceptance, and to help students develop greater sensitivity to cultural differences. We are also connecting with local community leaders to involve them in the process. We will keep the community informed of our plans.”
The incident at SOMS comes at the same time as Columbia High School is dealing with an allegedly racist social media post by students there, which Principal Elizabeth Aaron addressed in school-wide announcements over the last two days. The Village Green has reached out to the district and will have a full story soon.
The Village Green will follow both stories and report on any updates.