A swastika was drawn onto a classroom whiteboard at Longmeadow High School and discovered after students returned from winter break, prompting law enforcement to open an investigation with school administration.
In a letter to the school community on Jan. 3, Superintendent Marty O’Shea described the swastika as “small” and “faintly drawn,” and said it was a “disturbing and disheartening event.”
“Certainly, racist, discriminatory speech of any kind is not consistent with the policies of Longmeadow Public Schools, and is not aligned with our commitment to being a learning community that embraces and affirms all student identities and cultures,” the letter read.
“LPS denounces any acts of hate, racism or discrimination in any form,” the superintendent said.
O’Shea also reshared a statement that’d been previously sent on Dec. 27, which included resources for school community members “to foster a culture of respect and unity.”
The statement also said, “Recent global and national events remind us to stress the importance of protecting students from discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”
Though the letter did not include mention of any ramifications or potential disciplinary actions, its 2023-2024 Student Handbook has a policy section titled “Harassment,” which states “all alleged harassment,” outside of Title IX, which has separate policies is not tolerated by the school.
It listed, but was not limited to, 14 basis for harassment, including religion.
“Employees or students who have been found to violate this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including, termination of employment, subject to contractual disciplinary obligations or up to an expulsion,” the handbook said.
The Longmeadow Police Department confirmed to MassLive its school resource officers had opened an investigation into the suspected hate speech incident with school officials. No further information was available on the investigation or circumstances surrounding the incident.
Many former and current parents of Longmeadow students were in an uproar over the swastika drawing, including in a Longmeadow Facebook group post on the topic.
“There’s just no place for it,” Richard Goldstein, a father of two former Longmeadow High School students and Jewish resident of the town told MassLive Thursday morning.
“The schools have a real opportunity and a challenge ahead of them to educate these children on what’s right and wrong, around all forms of hate, not just antisemitism,” Goldstein said.
The Longmeadow father cited his own religion and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war as points of sensitivity for himself, and potentially for other members of the Longmeadow community, in light of the discovered hate symbol.
Shawn Schrager, a Jewish father from Longmeadow who currently has a daughter at the high school and a child in the town’s middle school, called the incident “shocking” and “disappointing.”
Schrager made a comment vouching in favor of the superintendent’s letter to the community, which stuck out on a post questioning the letter that’d been shared on Jan. 3 in the Longmeadow MA Open Forum Facebook page.
The open forum post had said the superintendent “emailed and confirmed it was a swastika, but felt the need to call it a small and faint one,” then quipped, “Does that make it ok?”
The post garnered more than 70 comments from both supporters and non-supporters of the email.
“There is no ‘small’ symbol,” a user named Gracie Jones agreed with the post in a comment underneath. “The fact that that it’s there speaks volumes and may as well be as big as the size of the building.”