The principal at Pope High School said a full investigation is underway into a vandalism incident at the school this week that included antisemitic graffiti being scrawled on a bathroom wall.
The damage included swastikas and the words “Hail Hitler” written above urinals and other unspecified destruction of facilities on the Hembree Road campus.
Photos of the vandalism were posted on social media, and apparently was part of a trending activity in which students vandalize school property and boast about it on the Tik Tok application.
Pope principal Thomas Flugum sent a message to the school community on Friday that “we will hold those responsible accountable to our district policies and applicable state laws.”
He also met with Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of Temple Kol Emeth in East Cobb, who said in a message to his congregation that he spoke to students at the end of lunch periods on Friday.
Sernovitz said Flugum told him that “several students have already been identified” and that interviews are continuing with other students to get more information.
“While there are many wonderful students at Pope High School, including some of our own, there are those who perpetuate hate and still others that remain silent,” Sernovitz wrote, quoting Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Elie Wiesel, who said that “we must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
In his message, Flugum touted Pope as “a welcoming, safe and considerate community for all our students. Disturbing acts like what happened this week have no place in our district or at our school and will not be tolerated.”
The incident comes at the end of Rosh Hashanah, a celebration of the Jewish New Year, and as Yom Kippur, the solemn Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, begins at sunset Wednesday and concludes on sunset Thursday.
The Pope PTSA sent out a message Friday night saying that “we can’t begin to understand what, how, why any of this would happen at our school, seemingly all in one day, but we can use this as an opportunity to teach our children.
“Many will call these teenage pranks, but these are hate crimes – and destroying property and stealing from your school is a felony.
“We stand together with ALL of our families and will not tolerate or accept hate.”
It’s been a year since swastika and pro-Trump graffiti was scrawled on fencing and trees in an East Cobb neighborhood near Post Oak Tritt Road and Holly Springs Road.
Sernovitz and the Atlanta office of the Anti-Defamation League launched an education program that included bias training.
On Friday, Sernovitz said he’s contacted ADL again for assistance regarding the Pope incident.
In his letter, he urged his congregants to “let us remember that repentance, prayer, and tzedakah (righteous giving), can make our world a little bit better and can give us hope in the midst of the darkness and challenges that we as a Jewish community have faced and continue to face. May our actions merit being inscribed in the Book of Life for another year.”