December 11, 2019

Swastikas Discovered in New Jersey School

Two swastikas were discovered at Glen Rock High School in Glen Rock, N.J., over the last two weeks.

The first was found on May 28 on a bathroom wall adjoining the high school and middle school. 

“There are no suspects, nor has a specific intended target been identified,” Glen Rock Police Chief Dean Ackermann told the Fair Lawn-Glen Rock Daily Voice. “A bias incident follow-up was completed by the detective bureau based upon limited information [made] available from school officials.”

On June 6, a teacher discovered a second swastika chiseled into a classroom wall. Ackermann said officers responded and photographed the area but there was little evidence as to the perpetrator.

“The administration, staff and maintenance personnel at the Glen Rock public schools are currently working diligently to inspect all facilities for any other bias or inappropriate graffiti which may be obscured in inconspicuous locations,” Ackermann told the Daily Voice. “All suspected bias incidents are treated seriously. Where evidence supports the identification of the actor, appropriate prosecution will occur.”

Glen Rock Public School Interim Superintendent Bruce Watson sent a letter to parents on June 4 stating the school district was making “every effort to identify the offender, but as of this date, our efforts have been unsuccessful. The building administration will continue to be diligent in our search.”

He added, “The Glen Rock [school district] denounces the use of this symbol … as it symbolizes genocide, intolerance and hate.”

“It’s something we have to get in front of because if this gets normalized with students, imagine what kind of impact it’s going to have on society at large.” — Evan Bernstein

In a June 5 statement, Glen Rock Mayor Bruce Packer and the Glen Rock City Council said, “Hate speech and hate in any form is not welcome in Glen Rock. While the Superintendent and BOE (Board of Education) are the appropriate lead on the response in the schools to this incident, we have offered our help and support in any way that they deem necessary. In the wake of this incident, we urge our community to come together; for us all to speak with our children and our neighbors; to discuss the impact of our words and actions on others, whether or not the intent is malicious.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director for New York and New Jersey Evan Bernstein told the Journal the swastikas were “a continuation of a very disturbing trend that’s happening in K-12 schools in northern and central New Jersey.” He added the ADL’s 2018 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents found an uptick in anti-Semitic instances in New Jersey schools.

“It’s something we have to get in front of,” Bernstein said, “because if this gets normalized with students, imagine what kind of impact it’s going to have on society at large.”

The ADL will be working with the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey to help implement its anti-bias training program called No Place for Hate in schools to prevent such anti-Semitic incidents, Bernstein said.

“We go into schools with our educational team and work with school parents, administrators and students to make a school no place for hate,” he said. “We had over 200 schools last year that graduated as No Place for Hate schools. We want to get into as many of those schools as possible in New Jersey.”

According to the ADL, there were 200 anti-Semitic incidents in New Jersey in 2018, the third-highest of any state. However, the ADL also found there was a 4% decline in anti-Semitic incidents in the state between 2017 and 2018.