October 6, 2017
For at least the fourth time, a student at Stoughton High School has used a hate-related symbol in school.
Principal Juliette Miller wrote in an e-mail to the high school community that a student had digitally drawn a swastika – a symbol of Nazi Germany – using a program on a computer while working on a group project with some of his peers to make up designs for flags.
The student, a Sophomore, erased the image at the request of one of his group’s members, Miller wrote, and a teacher intervened and reported the incident to the administration.
The parents of students who witnessed the incident were notified, Miller wrote.
Miller said the procedures for dealing with such incidents outlined in the district’s student handbook were followed and strictly enforced.
Miller said harassment incidents involving discrimination carry an out-of-school suspension penalty.
“The correction provided by the student’s peer and the swift actions of the teacher and administration demonstrate the ideals we value as a community,” she wrote.
Stoughton High School has been the scene of multiple hate-related incidents involving Nazi symbolism or references over the past year.
In November 2016, a student used tape to make a swastika while decorating the halls after school during Thanksgiving week, then made a comment regarding Adolf Hitler’s killing of Jews during the Holocaust after he was asked to take it down. The same day, another student used a swastika in a group chat outside of school that involved more than a dozen students.
Those incidents set off a community-wide controversy after three teachers were disciplined for speaking to their colleagues or their students about the incident.
One teacher was suspended for 20 days while the others received letters of reprimand.
The Enterprise was denied a copy of the final report produced after the incidents were independently investigated earlier this week. The district cited an exemption to the public records law preventing disclosure of documents dealing with “personnel matters” and a federal student privacy law.
In the midst of the subsequent public backlash, two other anti-Semitic and Nazi-related incidents took place, one involving a high school student who stood up and made a gesture in reference to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and another where a younger middle school student directed anti-Semitic comments at a fellow child.
Miller later engaged the Anti-Defamation League at the high school to bring a program for students, faculty, staff and parents over the next two years.
Last month, representatives from the organization were at the school training upperclassmen to be peer ambassadors for the groups A World of Difference Institute. The training focused on understanding symbols of hate.
In September, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, a Washington, D.C.-based Jewish civil rights group, sent Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi and the School Committee a letter calling for the three teachers’ punishments to be retracted and characterizing them as free speech violations.
Other school districts have also grappled with hate-related incidents this year.
In March, students wrote racist and anti-Semitic graffiti that included derogatory terms for various ethnic groups and a comment about the rise of the Aryan race was found inside Brockton High School.
That followed another incident in December 2016 involing a student drawing a swastika and writing “Adolf Hitler” on a school chalkboard.
The Anti-Defamation League was also called in following those incidents.