Community meeting set for December in response to school swastikas
A community meeting has been set for Dec. 12 in response to a continuing problem faced by Darien schools of swastika drawings being found.
The meeting being set comes after Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Addley told The Darien Times a swastika had been recently found at Darien High School on Nov. 1. Details are still being organized for the meeting.
“At the end of the day, a high school student reported finding a swastika drawn on a school Chromebook. The student reported the incident to the high school administration,” he said. Addley said the drawing was likely from the end of the previous school year.
A message was sent out to school parents and school students last week. This follows several incidents of finding swastikas and a Star of David at Middlesex Middle School.
“As our schools continue to respond to these disturbing incidents of hatred and discrimination, the district will reach out to the greater community for assistance in addressing these incidents,” Addley said.
In an email, Darien High School principal Ellen Dunn told families, “Unfortunately, I must inform you of a discovery made late in the day on Friday, Nov. 1 at DHS. A student noticed, and immediately reported, a small swastika drawn in ink on a Chromebook taken from a cart in a science classroom. We are greatly disturbed by this symbol of hatred and are currently investigating.”
“We have determined that the device has not been used since last June and are therefore not certain about the timing of this act. We join the middle school in its message of zero tolerance and their efforts, along with the entire Darien School District, to expand our educational focus on the impact of such symbols on all of us,” she said.
Dunn told families she addressed the school body today with the message and “our work will continue to sustain a school climate in which acts of racism, in any form, are abhorred.”
“As part of this effort, the administration is finalizing a Community Conversation for Action. Leaders in the community will be invited to participate in the conversation that will be hosted and facilitated by the National Conference for Community and Justice,” he said.
Darien High School principal Ellen Dunn sent an email to school families Wednesday, as sent to Darien High School families, in its entirety.
“I regret that I must share with you that a drawing of a swastika was found on a Chromebook in our building,” she wrote.
“At DHS, we cannot remain silent…we cannot and do not tolerate a symbol of hatred in our community. I ask you all to interfere… to consider your role in rejecting hatred and use your voices to educate, to challenge and to condemn this behavior. I will be meeting with our Community Council and we will invite you all to participate in our work going forward to prevent such acts in our community. There is nothing more important.”
Town officials respond
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said “Our modern world associates the swastika with the German National Socialist (Nazi) party and the military brutality and Holocaust genocide perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his followers during World War 2.”
“It has become a powerful symbol of hatred, racial bias and anti-Semitism. Sadly, several swastika drawings were found in our middle and high schools. I would like to believe these drawings were not expressed with malicious or hateful intention,” she said.
“Darien is a town of loving caring people so these overt symbols of hate are incongruent with what I know and love about our town. We must, however, maintain zero tolerance for all expressions of hate, racial bias and discrimination of any kind in our schools and community,” she said. Stevensons said she strongly encourages families to take time to talk about the importance of tolerance and inclusivity and looks forward to working together with school officials, town and community leaders and in partnership with the the Anti-Defamation League.
“The Darien Board of Education rejects symbols of hate, and supports the Districts efforts to educate our children on the deep, painful, and profound wounds opened by each of these occurrences,” said Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman.
“We ask the community as a whole, and all families to join us in these tough, real conversations. Darien is a community that has always been brave and outspoken. Let us not shy away from this topic,” Ochman said.
“The Board of Education is committed educating our children on the past, so they can go out into the world and build a brighter future,” she said.
Darien Police said though the school resource officer had been notified about the high school incident, the investigation was being led by the school district.
In an email to The Darien Times, Addley said, “Going forward, I implore the Darien community to partner with the school district in denouncing these acts and taking actions to ensure we maintain respectful and welcoming schools for our children supported by inclusive community values.”
More details will be forthcoming on the meeting as it gets closer.