A Jewish family in Virginia said they’re concerned about what has happened in their daughter’s school after a swastika was drawn on her desk.
“I think one of the biggest fears that I have is that I’m raising my children in the wrong place, and a place that’s not tolerant and not accepting,” a Loudoun County mother told WJLA. “And I’ve lived here for probably a little over a decade at this point. And this is the first time I’ve ever really, really questioned whether I’m raising my children in an unsafe place.”
Days after the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, she said a swastika was drawn on her daughter’s desk at school.
The mother asked WJLA not to identify her because she was worried about her family’s safety.
“The school’s reaction, I think, overall was the biggest challenge for me,” she said.
“I will say in what was offered to me [by the Loudoun County school] was an additional statement be added to the anti-bullying monthly newsletter, which felt like a, I have no other way to say it, but a slap in the face,” she continued. “It minimized the severity of the situation. You’re going to send out a statement with the anti-bullying newsletter? It wasn’t until I would say demanded that it be taken more seriously that a statement was put out to the entire school community. And it referenced the act as graffiti. It didn’t actually report what had actually occurred, which I’m not sure I understand that approach. But it was only after other parents found out what this graffiti actually meant that other parents were writing in saying that they didn’t feel they were being properly informed about the hate and threats of violence that were happening at their school. And at that time another letter went out aligning with the superintendent’s messaging on how we’re going to support children in the school system. What I would like to see is I would like to see our students taught in accordance with the Virginia curriculum, and that there be an evaluation process to show that we’re actually teaching the children what we should be teaching them. One of the things that was uncovered here was that the Holocaust curriculum in the seventh grade was not meeting the Virginia State Standards for the curriculum and I would like to see a short-term solution to how we’re going to support the kids.”
The Loudoun County parent showed an email from the school that did not specifically tell the community what happened; instead, the school system referred to the swastika as graffiti.
“It almost felt as though it was being swept under the rug, which I was very surprised by,” she said. “ I will say that the principal was very quick to respond. His reaction, he checked all of the boxes. He did what was mandated as the principal. I did not feel very much concern from the school. They equated this to bullying, which most people might say that there’s an overlap between hate speech and bullying, but very specifically, they are not the same thing. And they are not the same thing in the wake of a massacre of 1,200 to 1,400 Jewish people three days prior. So whereas the school system might have felt that they were checking certain boxes in what is mandated, did I feel safe? Absolutely not. My child was begging me not to speak up out of fear of not only what her peers would think and feel, but she didn’t want to be disruptive to the school process. And unfortunately, I think that’s what the school board is teaching our children is that we should lie somewhere in no man’s land so that we don’t upset anybody, that we don’t make a stand against things like this. This is hate. This is hate. This is violence.”
She said the school told her it was just a coincidence that a swastika was drawn on her daughter’s desk.
Recently there’s been a number of pro-Palestine walkouts at Loudoun County schools that allegedly included some chants that many Jewish parents and students have found offensive and threatening.
“This is about calling for the death of our people, is what it’s calling for,” the parent said. “And that’s Loudoun County not holding up their end to keep our kids safe from hate and violence. That’s my biggest concern. I don’t believe that Loudoun County is doing their part.”
She said that many in the Jewish community in Loudoun County are concerned with what is happening at schools and they’re afraid to speak out.
“I’ve connected with some families at our synagogue which is a small community,” she added. “There is a thread of families talking about their experiences. And, you know, we have children calling their parents from inside of a classroom saying ‘come and get me now’. Because what teachers might think is like a fun open debate, we’re not debating, you know, silly, fun debate things that you might bring up in like a civics class. We’re debating some really serious things and to open up a forum for kids to attack each other in a classroom where maybe there is only one Jewish kid in the classroom and there’s a handful of other kids calling, you know, for how awful the Jewish people are in the setting, what are the teachers doing to support those kids who have just as much of a right for protection as anybody else? And so I don’t think any LCPS student should have to call their parent from inside a classroom and say, ‘Come and get me. I don’t feel safe,’ and those things are happening.”
She wants the Loudoun County superintendent and the school board to lead by example and come up with a solution immediately.
“Right now, there is a crisis in this world, not just for Jewish children, for a lot of children on all sides of this conflict,” she said. “And we can’t wait months upon months upon months for a solution. We need the schools, the principals, the teachers to be given the tools to support the kids right now. We can’t wait weeks and weeks and weeks for you know, all of these meetings in the school board. They need something right now. They need to address these things properly beyond just checking these boxes, checking the boxes is not supporting the kids and it’s not making them feel safe and for me to keep my children home the day after this happened because the last thing they wanted to do was to walk through the building because if it wasn’t dealt with, they were told they weren’t targeted. They were told it was a coincidence that out of, you know, hundreds of kids, it just so happened to be on their desk. So I want a short-term answer to how we’re going to help our kids through the crisis that’s happening in the world right now.”
“How is your daughter doing right now?” WJLA reporter Nick Minock asked.
“I mean, I think she feels confused,” the mother replied. “I think she’s trying to minimize, you know, some of the impact it’s having on her because she doesn’t want to be a target. I mean she’s young, she’s a preteen, you know, they don’t want to be isolated. She’s confused. She’s sad. She idolized her history teacher last year, loved him, but the day that he was supposed to show up and teach about World War II and the Holocaust, they got to fill in the blank worksheet, and it was never discussed again. And those are the adults in her life. She gets the education at home from us. But what about those kids in school that are seeing, ads [on] their YouTube about pro-Palestinian marches “from the river to the sea” which is calling for the annihilation of the Jewish people? Who’s educating them on what those words actually mean?”
WJLA emailed written questions to LCPS on Thursday, including, “What is the Loudoun County superintendent and LCPS doing to ensure the safety of Jewish students from threatening rhetoric and acts from other students?”