Antisemitic graffiti, including swastikas, have been found at two Montgomery County Public Schools this month. The first incident was at Chevy Elementary school on Oct. 20 and the most recent incident occurred on Oct. 27 at Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda.
Montgomery County police responded to Pyle Middle School after reports of a “hate-based vandalism” was discovered on the blacktop of the school’s basketball courts last Friday, according to police.
“This incident of hate-bias is unacceptable. These symbols are not only offensive but considered antisemitic,” wrote Pyle principal Chris Nardi in an email to parents Friday afternoon. “Discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated.”
Nardi wrote that the school is investigating the incident and contacted county police after the symbol was found. He added that reporting protocols related to the hate-bias incident were followed by the school.
According to a Montgomery County Police Department spokesperson, officers responded to the incident at approximately 1:47 p.m. When they arrived, they were able to locate the antisemitic drawing on the campus, the spokesperson wrote in an email to MoCo360.
This is an active and ongoing investigation, and police did not provide additional details about the incident.
A Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson did not immediately respond to MoCo360’s request for comment.
A cell phone video taken by a student at Pyle, which was viewed by MoCo360, shows students on a blacktop standing around a swastika that had been traced onto the ground. In the video, the students can be heard discussing whether the symbol was etched using a rock.
“Although this behavior is not reflective of our students at Pyle, it serves as an opportunity to reiterate the importance of respect for each other by creating a school community of care,” Nardi wrote to parents. “It also serves as a reminder to educate and reinforce to students the impact that hateful words and symbols have on others and to call out and expose antisemitism when it happens.”
Another antisemitic incident was reported at Chevy Chase Elementary School this month. In an email to MoCo360, police confirmed that they responded to the report of two swastikas drawn on a bathroom wall at the school.
An MCPD spokesperson said that police and Montgomery County Public Schools are partnering to investigate that incident.
According to an email sent to MoCo360 from a former Chevy Chase elementary parent, the school sent a statement to the community which said that a student reported the antisemitic graffiti to school administration.
“Due to the timely reporting by our students the drawings were quickly removed and we subsequently informed MCPD, the Montgomery County Public Schools Office of School security and Emergency Management (OSSEM), and the MCPS Office of School Support and Well-Being (OSSWB) to assist in the investigation of this serious action,” the email stated.
“We are deeply saddened this occurred at our school. Student(s) who commit these unacceptable acts will receive consequences in alignment with the MCPS Student Code of Conduct,” the email stated.
According to MCPS 2023-2024 Student Code of Conduct, students that use language or display “images and/or symbols that promote hate or discrimination based on race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation” will typically face several different levels of consequences, ranging from community service, peer mediation and temporary removal from class to “restorative practices,” in-school suspension, short- or long-term suspension and expulsion.
Alan Ronkin, the Washington, D.C. director at the American Jewish Committee, said that the county and school district have “worked hard” to addresses issues of antisemitism in the region and need to continue to be taken seriously. He added that within the last few weeks antisemitic vandalism, intimidation and harassment has “skyrocketed.”
“There needs to be consequences for students, who many have been found to do this sort of thing,” he said. “I think that engaging parents is key because antisemitism doesn’t start in the schools, young people have to learn it. And engaging parents in all elements of society in uprooting antisemitism is critical right now.”
“We are a wonderfully diverse community, and we must continue to take a stand against acts of hate and harmful rhetoric,” he wrote. “We value our inclusive community and must provide a safe, welcoming place for all students to learn.”
In the past few years, the county and school district has seen a spike in antisemitic incidents happening on campuses at schools across MCPS. In September, a group of students at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring were observed “performing an antisemitic salute” outside of the school building principal Renay Johnson reported.