Pelham Middle School Vandalized With Offensive Symbols Causing Community Concern

Swastika engraved on locker in the boys' locker room.

Pelham School District

Swastika engraved on locker in the boys' locker room.

Nevan Malwana, Associate Editor-in-Chief, Junior

On September 27, the image of a swastika was found inside of one of the bathrooms of the middle school. Upon further examination on October 2, a total of three similar images were discovered in both bathrooms and locker rooms within the middle school. While it is believed that these hate symbols were not intended to target any individuals, administration officials took immediate action to make it clear that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated in the Pelham Schools District.

In a statement sent to the Pelham community, superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ and middle school principal Ms. Lynn Sabia said, “These symbols of hate have no place in our society and especially within our schools. This behavior is deeply offensive and will not be tolerated.”

As of publication date, the culprit or culprits had not been identified and there was conjecture at the October 7 community meeting to outline the district’s plans, that high school students may have been involved in the incident.

District officials are now looking to design a plan intended to teach students about the effects of hate speech and imagery and to see that such situations do not happen again. The primary component of this plan involves implementing a new education initiative within all the middle school grades. In the past, sixth and eighth graders learned about the Holocaust and related content in the springtime. Following this incident, however, students in all grades will be learning about Antisemitism in the fall. Also, the district has teamed up with the Anti-Defamation League to introduce a “No Place for Hate” campaign to both the middle and high schools. To encourage student involvement, the district is listening to ideas proposed by student-led groups for what students believe would be the most effective methods of combating hate. Finally, the district has publicly stated its position clearly: hate is not tolerated in Pelham Schools, and any students found to be responsible for hate symbols will face out-of-school suspension.

Dr. Champ said, “The more we can build relationships across the different cultures in our community, the more we will build understanding and genuine appreciation for one another’s differences. And that will be the vehicle to helping us get from the Pelham we feel like we are right now to the Pelham we aspire to be. I believe most students and most residents are very proud of our diversity as a community and recognize that as one of our strengths.”

With all evidence of the hate symbols now completely erased, the district is confident that this incident will not be the first of a reoccurring pattern. With the new school year now fully underway, the district hopes that their increased efforts to combat hate will be enough to discourage similar behavior.

“We will do everything we can to create an environment where hate and bias are not tolerated, and hopefully, instances like this are not repeated. It will take the efforts of everyone in the school as well as the community to truly eradicate hate in Pelham,” Dr. Champ said.