Middlebrook principal Lauren Feltz sent a letter home to parents regarding the incident Thursday of a swastika graffiti’d on a sign in a school bathroom. In the letter, she says that the student who was responsible has come forward to take responsibility and that the school is working with the student’s family “with both disciplinary action and explicit teaching.”
In addition, she apologizes that the incident occurred, and reiterates that the school should be a place “where all learners should be confident that they will be treated with respect… and to affirm that our school has no place for hate.” Feltz writes that additional steps will be taken in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League and local religious leaders.
[Editor’s note: read the response from Rabbi Rachel Bearman of Wilton’s Temple B’nai Chaim, here…]
Feltz also made an announcement to the entire student body Friday afternoon, which was followed by a statement read within each team. In it, the students were told that the school administration was there to support all students, and that there was a need within the school for “a larger conversation around respect.” The incident was referred to as “a charge for change in our school,” and an opportunity to “make a commitment as a team that we will not use hate speech, symbols or writing at school or online to belittle and disempower anyone for any reason including their race, religion, sexual orientation or social status.”
The statement also says that it is ongoing work. “This is big, important work that we will not finish today. We will return to conversations like this.”
Below is the letter to parents from Feltz, in its entirety.
Friends of Middlebrook,
Middlebrook is a place where all learners should be confident that they will be treated with respect. Unfortunately, this week a student drew a swastika on the wall of a boys’ bathroom in the yellow section of Middlebrook School. Hateful graffiti, including use of this symbol, is a deplorable act and we denounce it. The image was removed immediately, our administrative team undertook a full investigation and began inspecting the site hourly.
At this time, I can report that we have concluded our investigation. The student who penned the swastikas has come forward and taken responsibility. School staff members are collaborating with the child’s family. Without including details, I assure you that we are responding to this issue with both disciplinary action and explicit teaching for that student. While no excuse can or should be made for this action, in talking with the student, it is clear that the intent in making the graffiti was not a message of hate. While the child understands the historical gravity of the symbol and anti-Semitism in general, the student was not personally intending to make an anti-Semitic statement. Of course, this in no way decreases the negative impact this has had on our school community.
Additionally, we are addressing this upsetting event as a school family. We are engaging students and teachers to affirm that our school has no place for hate. We are addressing this in discussions on each team. Our social worker, school counselors, and psychologists are available to students who wish to process their feelings in a more private setting. We will be working with both the Anti-defamation League and leaders of our local Jewish community to collaborate as we recover and rebuild trust after this incident.
To the larger Wilton community, I wish to say that I am genuinely sorry. Together we work to ensure that our students are growing up in a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment. Middlebrook students are charged with being agents for positive change in the world and to stand up against hate. Today we stand together as we take steps to help our community process and heal.
Here is the statement read to students at school Friday:
Today I am interrupting the plans we had for flex to talk about something that has happened here at Middlebrook. As you know, Middlebrook is a place where all learners should be confident that they will be treated with dignity and respect. However, this week a student drew a swastika on the bathroom wall. This is a long-standing symbol of the worst kind of hate. While only a few people in our school family saw this graffiti themselves, I want to address the feelings and concerns raised by this.
At this time Principal Feltz does know who made the graffiti. That student has taken responsibility and will work to make amends to the members of our community. Beyond this discrete example though, there is a need for a larger conversation around respect. Middlebrook is no place for hate. Today we are going to take this example as a charge for change in our school. Today we are going to make a commitment as a team that we will not use hate speech, symbols or writing at school or online to belittle and disempower anyone for any reason including their race, religion, sexual orientation or social status.
Today we are reaching out to each other to say that we are here to support you. If you want to talk about this here on team, or if you want to have a chance to process your feelings with someone like your school counselor in a more private setting, we will make sure that you have that chance. We just need you to reach out and let your team leader know.
This is big, important work that we will not finish today. We will return to conversations like this, and I hope that you will reflect on your own feelings and seek opportunities to stand up for what is right. If you are ever in a situation where you feel like you or one of your peers needs support, please reach out right away to an adult. We want to help you and all of our students feel safe and supported at Middlebrook.