NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- As first reported by Talk of the Sound on Wednesday, school officials have confirmed a four-inch swastika was found inside New Rochelle High School.
The incident comes two weeks after 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th.
In a statement issued Thursday following a request for comment by Talk of the Sound, school officials confirmed a four-inch swastika was found scratched into a bathroom door in the boys locker room at New Rochelle High School yesterday after a reader tip to Talk of the Sound publisher Robert Cox was forwarded to school officials.
School staff has since made additional scratches in the swastika to obscure the etching until a permanent solution can be put in place.
“This incident is under investigation,” said Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Magda Parvey. “We hope to determine who perpetrated the act.”
Joseph Starvaggi, interim Principal, hedged on whether he considered depicting a Nazi-symbol in a public school in a community with a large Jewish population constituted a “hate message”, labeling the swastika as “graffiti” in an email to staff on Thursday morning, calling it an act of vandalism in an interview on Thursday, and questioning whether the swastika constituted hate speech.
“If this is truly a hate message, we want to address that very directly and take it very seriously,” he said. “If this is a matter of a teenager putting something up there not realizing the depth of it, then we need to do a lot more education throughout the building."
“It does run along the lines of hate, knowing that it's a swastika,” said Starvaggi.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, whose family were Holocaust survivors, was less sanguine, flatly describing the swastika “a symbol of hatred and genocide” whose appearance “in the heart of our community is deeply upsetting, especially in the context of increasingly prevalent incidents of anti-Semitism nation-wide,” he said.
“Whether produced with an intent to harm or out of ignorance and insensitivity, it highlights the importance of teaching our children the lessons of history and of setting a positive example of respect for all human beings.”
Starvaggi said the perpetrator would be subject to school suspension.
“It's a very serious action to take, and we take it very seriously,” said Starvaggi. “We're very upset about it”.
Parvey said she was “disappointed” with the act.
“We know that the vast majority of our high school students are respectful, responsible young adults,” said Parvey. “ Nonetheless, when something like this occurs, it reminds us of the importance of educating our young adults about the powerful impacts certain symbols carry.”
“Our District Code of Conduct prohibits ‘expressions based upon race, color, creed, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, sex, gender (identity and expression), sexual orientation, physical characteristics or disability, which have the foreseeable effect of creating a hostile environment for another person or group of persons.’
An act that attacks one group attacks us all. While we are a diverse District, we are one. We celebrate the differences that make New Rochelle such a wonderful and welcoming community.”