September 26, 2017
STOUGHTON, MA — A group that advocates for the civil and human rights for Jewish issues and members of the faith is calling on the Stoughton Public Schools to not issue further punishment to a teacher disciplined or talking about an incident involving a swastika.
In a letter to Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi and the school committee, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law urged the committee to retract discipline aimed at Stoughton High School teacher Stella Martin. The committee and Rizzi are scheduled to meet in executive session Tuesday night to discuss the items, “Level III Grievance Hearing Discussion,” “Update on STA Grievance,” and “Stoughton Teachers Association – Negotiation Strategy.”
Martin was one of the teachers that were reprimanded for discussing a recent series of swastikas that were found. The first incident was reported on Nov. 22 and the student involved was suspended for six days and placed on social probation for two months. On Dec. 1, a dimed-sized swastika which was scratched into a desk was discovered. The responsible student was not found. A third incident that took place in a private group text on Nov. 22 was reported on Dec. 2. The two students responsible were suspended for two days. The suspensions were extended to six days and social probation for one student and 10 days for the other.
While Stoughton High School Principal Judith Miller said at a previous school committee meeting that a staff meeting was held on Dec. 1 to address the issue and the Anti-Defamation League was called Dec. 5, a day after the administration learned of the second incident, some teachers were reprimanded and suspended for discussing the incidents with students.
“It is disgraceful that the Stoughton Public Schools are disciplining a teacher who did the right thing by responding firmly to anti-Semitism,” LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus said in a release. “Ms. Martin did what teachers should do, responding promptly and firmly. Superintendent Rizzi should be honoring Stella Martin, rather than punishing her. By mistreating Ms. Martin and her colleagues in this manner, Superintendent Rizzi is sending an awful message that the Stoughton Public Schools will tolerate anti-Semitism but punish teachers who speak out against it.”
Following the Nov. 22 incident, Martin spent time during her honors English class discussing the incident, which led to the mother of the boy who drew the swastika accusing Martin of bullying her son. Martin contends that she never mentioned the boy’s name or has spoken to him.
The school committee, through an internal review from earlier this year, contend that the incident was handled the right way.
The committee is scheduled to meet in open session at 7 p.m. Tuesday before going into executive session. The executive session is not open to the public.