Principal Irby Details Follow Up to SOMS Swastika Graffiti Incident

by The Village Green
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In late November, staff and students at South Orange Middle School discovered a swastika drawn in a stall in one of the student restrooms. The graffiti was immediately removed and the school began an investigation as well as facilitated discussions “to help students understand their civic – and community – responsibility to welcome each other; to support the goals that we all have for education, personal growth, and warm relationships; and to discuss how we can address these issues in our own school environment.”

The school also grappled with the issue in the spring when Anti-Semitic images posted on social media and verbal slurs several SOMS students allegedly made drew a swift response from the school and district administration.

Today, SOMS Principal Lynn Irby emailed this follow-up to parents and guardians of the SOMS community:

Dear SOMS Community,

Last week a letter went home to parents indicating the steps that SOMS would take to address the recent anti-Semitic incident.  This included conversations in the classroom, particularly in the Social Studies classes.  We provided our teachers with talking points that addressed the issue of tolerance as a whole.  Some teachers spoke specifically to the issue while others had a broader approach.

On Friday December 2, during the WIN period the entire 6th grade team took the time to further discuss the issue of respect in the school.  This was insightful as many students voiced their concerns and generated ideas for future activities.

At the same time Rabbi Gewirtz, a SOMS parent, had previously been invited to speak with two 7th grade teams on Judaism. He too addressed the specific incident.

From these conversations it became evident that we needed additional work and support to help combat not only this specific incident but racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and anti-bullying as a whole.

On Wednesday December 7th, a meeting was held at the school with a group of local rabbis, administration, faculty/staff and a parent to strategize and generate ideas for developing a comprehensive plan of action. The meeting was honest, insightful, and productive.

Immediate Response

Principal’s Town Hall Meetings with Students

o             Grade 6 Friday December 9th during WIN 8th period

o             Grade 7 & 8 Monday December 12th period 8

Goal: Recap of the particular bias incident providing details of the language used, the ongoing investigation, and the affect it had on students, families, the school and the community.

Long-Term Initiatives

•             Student Learning (held during Advisory Classes)

•             Anti-bias/Anti-bullying training (staff/students)

•             No Place for Hate Committee (ADL)

Throughout our process we are committing to work with stakeholders, and to confer with advisors, who have specific experience and expertise in addressing bias issues. We greatly appreciate your support in this.


Lynn A. Irby

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