Grade-wide assembly teaches about tolerance

Speakers inform students about microaggressions and hate crimes


Yefei Yao

Ms. Helen Turner discusses the importance of the impact of micro aggressions to reduce hate both in and out of school. The assembly taught students in each grade to always consider the weight of their words.

Lindsey Smith and Leah Doubert

Schreiber recently held an assembly to educate students about the impact of hate symbols on others around them.  The assemblies were held for sophomores on Feb. 27, juniors on Feb. 28, seniors on March 1, and freshmen on March 8.  Helen Turner, the Director of Youth Education at the Holocaust Museum of Nassau County, spoke to students about acceptance and understanding.  The assemblies were a reminder to all Schreiber students to be aware of the impact of their words and to respect everyone.

These assemblies were held in response to the events of Nov. 2, when a student reported finding inappropriate and discriminatory messages and images scrawled on the wall of the boys’ bathroom.  The administrators at Schreiber brought in Ms. Turner and a Nassau County police officer to shed some light on the situation, as well as Ms. Joanne Levant, a volunteer at the Holocaust Museum.

“While this is a sensitive topic to many people, I think that it was important for it to be discussed so we can avoid having it happen again,” said sophomore Julia Semilof.

The first section of the assembly discussed the true meaning behind symbols and messages of hate.  Turner discussed the Holocaust in depth, which led to millions of deaths of innocent people.  She also talked about various events, such as the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi Rally, which was a prime example of recent discrimination.

“I think she was really well spoken and gave lots of background about the use of these symbols. The information discussed showed people who were less aware about events such as the Holocaust that these symbols were used in a very serious and frightening way, and they still are today,” said freshman Kate Steigman.

She brought up multiple examples of how words can turn into physical violence and how serious hate crimes can be through images like nooses and the swastika.

Another portion of the assembly included a discussion with a police officer, who explained the differences between microaggressions and hate crimes.

“I thought the intentions were good, but the policeman was very off-topic, and his information didn’t really end up being relevant to the assembly,” said sophomore Julia Brickell.  

After the police officer spoke, students split into groups and were asked to list any microaggressions they had heard or experienced before.  This helped everyone to think about how those words might make people feel and encouraged them to consider how they speak to one another.

“I think she [Helen Turner] did a really good job creating messages that are important for us to work on as a school community,” said Assistant Principal David Miller. “Her work on microaggressions was extremely powerful because as an educator, seeing what kids had to say reminds me that we have a lot to work on. It’s chilling.” 

While people liked the idea of introducing students to microaggressions and hate, many were still unsure of the impact that the assemblies would have. 

“I thought it was too long, but I liked the message they gave us. Honestly, I don’t think much will change, but it was nice to be reminded that we can change what we say if we really want to,” said senior Eileen Brickell. 

The discussion and activity relating to microaggressions exposed students to problems around school that they may not have been aware of previously.

“The opportunity for students to learn more about symbols of hate, in particular, the damage of microaggressions, including being able to talk openly about microaggressions we’ve heard in school, I think, is really valuable and we have to continue to have those discussions and have to keep reminding each other about how important it is to be mindful of what damage we can cause to others, even if it’s accidental,” said Principal Dr. Ira Pernick.  “I think if we ever want to create a school where truly everyone feels comfortable, we have to keep having this conversation.” 

Many felt that these assemblies were necessary to promote respect and inclusion. 

The assemblies brought attention to the serious subject of hate symbols and compelled students to think about the effect of their words and actions on others.

“Even though it felt like we had heard a lot of it before, it’s always good to remind everyone about acceptance.  It was an important presentation to see and left me feeling reassured about our school atmosphere,” said senior Lauren Seltzer.

 Schreiber still has a long way to go in terms of acceptance, but these assemblies were certainly a good start.