Flyers taped to the wall in at least two places at West Hartford’s Hall High School on Thursday contained an antisemitic message, and while Principal Dan Zittoun spoke to students and staff Friday morning and shared his announcement with families stating that “hateful speech has no home here,” some parents are upset that there’s not more outrage about the latest incident.
The flyers taped to the wall Thursday included a black and white image of the flag of Palestine, and the words “From the River To The Sea Palestine Will Be Free!!!” along with the words “ceasefire.”
“I definitely would have liked to have seen a stronger reaction, especially in light of what happened at Sedgwick,” said Doug Shefsky, whose son is a student at Hall. Earlier in the school year, the administration received a complaint from a parent whose son reported that a teacher used a racial slur in the classroom. The incident was investigated, and the teacher has since left the district.
“It makes me feel like the Jewish community is not being fully supported,” said Shefsky, who noted the email Zittoun sent to families Friday had the subject line “Unsupported Flyers,” which did not convey the magnitude of the incident.
Several weeks ago there was an incident at Hall that involved racist graffiti scrawled on a bathroom stall, and following that incident a letter was sent to the Hall community by Zittoun noting that the School Resource Officer was immediately notified and an investigation is underway. That incident included a threat of violence, and in his message to families stating that racist acts will not be tolerated, Zittoun wrote: “While we do not believe there is a credible threat, we will continue to assess the situation and provide additional security as necessary to maintain the safety of all students and staff in the Hall community. If anyone has any information to assist the investigation, please reach out to school administration, the school resource officer, or use the Anonymous Alert app that can be found on the school website.”
Shefsky said that he wants to be sure that there is transparency about both of these incidents, that students are discussing them during their community lessons, and that a thorough investigation is underway.
Roni Rodman is also a Hall parent, and also Jewish. She said that with everything going on in the world, the Jewish community is more fearful than ever. “Is my child safe?” she asked. She wants to be assured that the administration is seriously investigating the latest incident.
“Does the person who put this on the wall know what that means?” Rodman said. Even if they don’t, she said, “your ignorance doesn’t excuse you being antisemitic.”
In 2023, Rodman said, she shouldn’t have to worry about her entire race being annihilated again. Antisemitism “is the oldest form of racism and we live with it every day,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Paul Vicinus told We-Ha.com on Friday that while he is not able to provide details, both incidents are being taken seriously and are being investigated.
“I do not have any new information to share but would like to reiterate that incidents such as these are deeply troubling as they are antithetical to our values and equity vision,” Vicinus said. “Hate has no place in our schools. We take very seriously our responsibility to provide safe and welcoming spaces and as such investigate such occurrences to preserve and protect the sanctity of our learning environment. We stand firm in our work to support all in our community in the accomplishment of our mission to prepare and inspire all students.”
Vicinus urged anyone who continues to have concerns to reach out to him, and that includes anyone who feels like a message is unclear or those who think more needs to be done.
“There’s no tolerance and there’s no room for any form of speech that’s hateful to any group,” Vicinus reiterated. He said that when the investigation is complete, there will not only be consequences for the individuals involved, but there will also be conversation taking place with all students.
“We’re very aware … that we’ve got work to do, that’s ongoing across our schools to try to curb this behavior, to provide positive messaging about our expectations,” he said, and that also includes providing students with education about how they can intervene to prevent this type of behavior.