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Elite Kansas City Private School Investigating ‘KKK’ Graffiti, Just a Few Months after a Swastika was Found

Pembroke Hill School officials are investigating to find out who wrote “KKK” on the side of a student desk — a couple of months after a swastika was found in a classroom on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Officials “will take swift and appropriate action when/if we identify who is responsible for this reprehensible act,” Brad Shelley, the head of school, said in a letter to parents on Monday.

“Words cannot convey how disheartened and deeply troubled we are by this, especially in light of all our efforts by many in our community in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. These actions of hate within our school community must stop.”

The “KKK” written on the desk was discovered Friday and is the latest in a string of incidents that have angered and frustrated several parents, including many who are Jewish. Parents previously told The Star they have witnessed a pattern of anti-Semitic behavior at Pembroke in recent years, including swastikas drawn on a Jewish student’s locker and a bathroom wall.

On Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, officials at the high school discovered a swastika drawn on a desk, as well an offensive reference toward members of the school’s LGBTQ community. Officials said at the time that they were investigating the incident and would punish whoever was responsible.

On Tuesday, spokeswoman Beth Bryant said, “No, we have not identified who was responsible for the swastika, and it is an ongoing investigation.”

And last summer, a Pembroke teacher posted on Facebook a photo of train tracks leading to Auschwitz with the words: “The horrific truth is … if people were told to get into boxcars to be taken to ‘virus protection camps’ many of them would rush to get in line.”

After Friday’s incident, Shelley told parents that he has asked Rick Castillo, the school’s director of security and safety, to help conduct an investigation. Officials also contacted the police department, he said.

“I commend and thank the individual who came forward when this symbol was noticed because of their concern for other members of the community. This brave action reflects the importance of ‘if you see something, say something,’” Shelley said.

On Monday, Shelley addressed high schoolers to reiterate that “there is no place for these acts/signs of hatred at Pembroke Hill, and they will not be tolerated.” Students then discussed the incident and how the school community can ensure that such incidents don’t occur, he said, adding that their thoughts will be used to plan future steps.

Middle school leaders were planning to discuss the impact of hate symbols and messages with students on Tuesday, he said.

School officials say they have made progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives in the past year.

In January, Pembroke Hill opened a national search to fill a newly created position, a director of diversity, equity and inclusion. Officials are interviewing candidates now, and plan to have the position filled for this upcoming school year.

Officials also hired Kansas City-based consulting firm Sophic Solutions to hold community conversations, complete a diversity and equity audit, and then present recommendations.

And the school is partnering with the Jewish Community Relations Bureau/AJC and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education to provide guidance and educational programming. At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, officials said the organization would present a program on antisemitism for parents. And programs will be held for students throughout the month.

Source:https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/education/article250465971.html