The Ramapo Indian Hills Board of Education is continuing its investigation into swastika graffiti found at Ramapo High School.
At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, interim Schools Superintendent James Baker referred to “recent concerns with some hate issues” and meetings with rabbis and the Jewish Federation of New Jersey to discuss “solutions to the bias issues and things we can do in the future.”
Ramapo High School Principal Travis Smith said Tuesday in an email that an investigation with police was “ongoing” and that no further statement would be made “until it has been officially closed by the Franklin Lakes Police Department.”
Baker said a student discovered the swastika and a Jewish slur in a bathroom as the school was closing on Jan. 12 for the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and reported it to his parent, who called the school to alert the administration.
Charles Wolff, the district operations, facilities and school security coordinator, sent an email on Jan. 12 at 2:34 p.m. to Franklin Lakes police Detective Frank O’Brien to report the incident.
Franklin Lakes Police Chief Mark McCombs said O’Brien was “out of work sick, hence unable to check his emails,” but “the incident was followed up on and investigated by this agency immediately upon receipt and acknowledgment of the email.”
As a result, McCombs said, the official police report on the incident was not filed until Monday, Jan. 15, leading to social media accusations that the district was lax in reporting the incident and not giving it appropriate attention.
“While all standard procedures may not have been utilized in their entirety in the initial reporting of the incident, I am not aware nor would the police department tolerate any overt or intentional attempt by the school to delay reporting this incident or any others,” McCombs said in an email statement.
Barnert Temple issued an email to congregation members about the incident on Thursday, Jan. 18, at 9:50 a.m. from Rabbi Rachel Stein and congregation President Craig Solomon. They confirmed that “the incident was reported properly to law enforcement” and said they had requested a meeting with Smith, who “responded quickly to affirm his interest in having this conversation.”
Baker said the district had to wait for legal review of its statement on the incident, emailed to parents at 3 p.m. the same day, reporting the “discovery of bias-related acts” at Ramapo and that officials “unequivocally condemn acts of hatred of all types.”
However, some on social media criticized the seven-day delay in the school’s announcement and said, as parent Jeffrey Greene put it, Smith “has simply tried to sweep the incident under the rug.”
Baker said the district was unaware of the temple’s announcement. Stein and Solomon did not respond to requests for comment on why they issued their announcement before the district’s.
There was no public comment on the incident at Monday’s school board meeting. Wyckoff parent Alla Safir-Krause only expressed disappointment that “nobody noticed” the district’s Holocaust Remembrance Day announcement and that officials should not simply “go through the motions to check off a box.”
Smith said there have been three bias incidents at Ramapo since the start of the school year involving antisemitic symbols. Last year Ramapo and Indian Hills each reported one antisemitic incident, he said.
*An additional swastika was discovered at Franklin Lakes Middle School just weeks after the Ramapo High School incident.