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Elite LA Prep School Unable to Solve Spate of Antisemitic Incidents

The administration at Harvard Westlake, a Los Angeles prep school, filed a police report and increased campus surveillance after a Nazi symbol was found poked into a bulletin in the student lounge on Jan. 23, the fifth in a series of antisemitic incidents over the past five months. The school administration said they are working to narrow down a list of possible suspects, and that once found, the perpetrator or perpetrators will receive harsh punishment, according to President Rick Commons.

The four previously reported incidents occurred in various locations across campus. In September, a swastika was found drawn onto a whiteboard; in October, the words “Hitler Rocks” and several swastikas were found carved into a desk; and in December, “swastika-like symbols” were found scratched into two desks in the same classroom, according to Commons.

NGO StopAntisemitism expressed their outrage of the incidents on Harvard Westlake’s campus and the overall response from the admission’s team on the matter.

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said the school’s security team filed the police report and that she would consider pressing charges if a perpetrator is found.

“Security filed a police report since they are the liaison with law enforcement,” Slattery said. “If we were to find out who is responsible for the incidents, I would certainly consider pursuing it criminally since, as far as I understand, it would be considered a crime.”

Commons said while the school does not know who is responsible for the swastikas, he believes it may be one person.

“We don’t know who is doing this,” Commons said. “It could be that its multiple people, but it doesn’t seem that way. It feels like it’s one person who, either because that person is rebellious, angry, or hateful, has decided to do this. As long as I’ve been in schools, kids write things on desks that are intended to provoke administrators, but when the swastika is involved, I don’t think we have any choice but to react seriously.”

Slattery said while she believes some of the incidents may have been committed by the same person, more recent incidents may be different students trying to emulate earlier vandalism.

Commons said because of the multiple attempts to spread awareness about the harm the swastikas cause, the punishment for the culprit will be severe and potentially include expulsion.

“I think after the first incident that we made public, it would be very hard for any student to have missed how upsetting it was to our community,” Commons said. “I then spoke to class meetings after the third and fourth incidents, so for someone in the aftermath of that secondary explanation of how hateful this is to have continued to do it strikes me as deserving of severe consequences if we were to find that person. I think expulsion is on the table, and in certain situations, I reserve the right to bypass the Honor Board and make a decision in conjunction with my colleagues to make a more swift decision.”

In addition to getting law enforcement involved, Slattery said the school is adding surveillance to places on campus.

Source: https://hwchronicle.com/106368/news/school-searches-for-suspects-after-fifth-antisemitic-vandalism-incident/