The school took effective measures after disappointing hate crime

Noah Loewy, Staff Writer

Last month, Schreiber students and administrators were shocked to see photos of the troubling messages that were inscribed on the wall of the C-Wing boys bathroom.  On Nov. 16, an anonymous faculty member reported the graffiti to the administration, which included several slurs that hit home for many students and faculty members in the community.

The infamous “Not all Nazi’s” slogan of the White-Nationalist Movement was among the derogatory language that appeared on the bathroom wall, along with offensive homophobic, racist, and sexist slurs.  Schreiber students demanded action, and the administration wasted no time as they immediately launched an investigation.  By keeping students and parents properly informed and addressing the matter as soon as possible, they successfully prevented social media from feeding the rumor mill.

“Building trust between students and the school is critically important.  I think students know when an adult is telling the truth and I wanted to make sure the truth was out.  The news cycle is quick these days and we didn’t want to lose an opportunity,” said Principal Dr. Ira Pernick.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident.  Last November, a swastika was discovered in another Schreiber bathroom.  In both of these situations, the administration and community leaders stood their ground and declared a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behavior.  However, last month’s situation prompted an even more direct and serious response from the school district.

“First hearing about it, I became nauseated and wanted to throw up,” said Assistant Principal Mr. Craig Weiss.  “My fellow administrators and I met, discussed further action, and expressed our disgust.”

As soon as the matter was brought to the administrators’ attention, they sent a mass email to all parents, and individual grade-level assemblies were promptly scheduled for the following morning.

“When something sudden and unprecedented like this happens, it is important that the actions taken by the school are swift, while still disciplined, to ensure that something similar does not happen again.  That is something our administration is very good at doing,” said freshman Becca Packer.

At the assemblies, students were shown clear images of the graffiti and were encouraged to join Schreiber’s recently established No Place For Hate committee.  Later, students were given an open forum to express their opinions and reactions to the incident.

“I didn’t want students to leave the meeting wondering what the graffiti said, instead of being focused on the impact of the graffiti.  I felt that the slide itself would have a powerful effect on students and it did.  The speeches that some students gave were powerful moments,” said Principal Dr. Ira Pernick.

The assemblies had a positive effect on students, as they opened up a forum for discussion and ultimately united the Schreiber community under a common goal: making sure that Schreiber fosters a safe academic environment.  “Effectiveness is very difficult to measure,” said Mr. Weiss.  “But, after the incident, the amount of students involved with the No Place For Hate club grew exponentially, and there was much more activity coming from the student body.  Events like this, as terrible as they are, can galvanize the school and the community into positive actions and allow real change in our school.”

In addition to grade-level assemblies, all parents were invited to attend a nighttime assembly to address any lingering questions or concerns.  The school’s immediate actions eliminated community backlash and quickly abated the situation.

Dr. Mooney, Dr. Pernick, and the entire administration’s handling of such a serious and sensitive issue could not have been better.  Their timely response prohibited the circulation of potentially dangerous rumors and their honesty and integrity helped strengthen trust between students, parents and faculty.  Hopefully, these bonds will be used to deter similar events in the future, as the student body continues to stand united as one.