Another swastika found on a desk at Darien middle school

The Anti-Defamation League recently visited Darien’s Middlesex Middle School

The Anti-Defamation League recently visited Darien’s Middlesex Middle School

Erin Kayata / Hearst Connecticut Media

On Monday, school administration reported to middle school families that another swastika had been found at Middlesex Middle School.

In September, swastikas and a Star of David were found at Middlesex in two separate incidents that resulted in a police investigation and prompted a school community discussion on discrimination.

“It is with great concern and sadness that I report to you that we have found another swastika on campus. It was drawn on a desk with a pencil eraser. A student saw it and immediately reported it to his teacher. Although the incident was thoroughly investigated, we were unable to determine who was responsible,” Principal Shelley Somers said in a letter to parents.

“While we have taken steps to educate our students about the impact of symbols and language of hate, this latest disheartening incident of Anti-Semitic propaganda cannot be tolerated,” she said.

Somers said the school has addressed intolerance through “Advisory classes, social emotional learning lessons, and our revised Social Studies curriculum, and will continue with a Nov. 7 grade level ‘Step Up’ assembly coordinated by the Anti-Defamation League.”

However, Somers said these steps have not been enough, and is now planning a parent meeting, including clergy and community members, to “discuss strategies to eliminate this unacceptable behavior. You can expect an email from me confirming the date and the time.”

“My staff and I have worked hard for the past three years to develop a climate of kindness at Middlesex. Although I truly believe that the majority of our students value diversity and respect differences, I can neither overlook nor ignore the acts of those who bring hate to the forefront,” she said.

Swastika history

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the swastika (a hooked cross), appears to have first been used in Eurasia, as early as 7000 years ago, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. It is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia. Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being.

The swastika eventually became a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride.

Following Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, the Allied governments ruling the nation outlawed Nazi organizations. Their symbols and propaganda were removed and further dissemination criminalized. Subsequent German governments continued the ban on Nazi symbols and propaganda, including the swastika. Today, in Germany and other European states, public display of Nazi symbols, including on the Internet, is prohibited by law and individuals violating such terms are subject to criminal proceedings.

Multiple swastikas were recently reported at Staples High School in Westport and swastikas and anti-Semitic comments were also found at Hamden High School.

Superintendent response

Superintendent Dr. Alan Addley, who has taken a strong stance against the incidents at the middle school, said in a statement to The Darien Times that “no matter what the reasoning, it is very disturbing and unacceptable that these acts of hatred continue at the middle school.”

“The district is unequivocal in its stance in denouncing all acts of bigotry, anti-Semitism, prejudice and discrimination,” he said.

“Nonetheless, we need to recognize that the incidents continue, despite the middle school’s overwhelming positive school climate and its efforts with the student body to address the topic and the recent events that have occurred,” Addley said.

Addley added that moving forward, the district will look for new ways to partner with parents, members of the Darien community and/or outside agencies to assist us in addressing these complex issues in order to ensure a respectful and inclusive learning environment for all our students and families.

Earlier this month, Addley talked with The Darien Times about the steps the school and district had taken in response to the swastika incidents.

In addition to the assembly and the partnership with the ADL, Addley said the middle school is considering launching a school-wide act of kindness initiative and will be exploring other strategic educational learning experiences in collaboration with the National Conference for Community and Justice.

“With displays of bigotry, anti-Semitism, prejudice and discrimination on the rise in society and in school districts across the state, it is critical we take an unequivocal stance in denouncing such acts. It is also important, in collaboration with our parents, that we use these opportunities as teachable moments for our young students,” Addley said.

Darien Police have not responded to request for comment.