Students respond to finding third Swastika this year



The Swastika was found on a divider used during a math test on October 7th.

In the midst of a frantic, last-minute studying frenzy for the first Precalculus test of the year, a student raised their hand and pointed across the room. The class collectively turned towards one of the desks in the class. A Swastika had been drawn on a blue divider placed atop the desk.

This year, in the span of two months, three Swastikas have been found at the high school. The administration disclosed two of the three incidents through a mass email sent to the student body. The third Swastika was found Oct. 7 in math teacher Christine Shen’s Precalculus Honors G-block class.

Shen was preparing to administer a test when the Swastika was found. She said part of what was challenging about the situation was that the decision had to be made instantly and entirely by her.

“Do I pause now and address it? Or do I continue to have everyone take the test and address it later in a discussion? That’s what I chose to do,” Shen said. “There’s just this sense of dread, and as far as I know there’s no protocol in place on how to handle a situation like this.”

Shen sent an email immediately after the class period ended to her students and their families. She informed the students that there would be a discussion during their next class and was open about her uncertainty in regards to how she should have addressed the symbol.

Junior Elina Kasida, a student in the math class where the third Swastika was found, said that she did not have an immediate response to the discovery of the graphic.

“I feel like since there’s a lot of hate speech around. I didn’t have a super huge reaction, it was not surprising. It was upsetting for sure, but not necessarily something unexpected,” Kasida said.

Another student in the math class, junior Tomer Schubert, said that he was shocked by the Swastika drawn on the math divider.

“I was kind of surprised because I used the same divider last week, and now there’s a Swastika on it,” Schubert said.

Kasida said that one of the scariest things about the situation was that there was no way to find out what the intention of the graphic was.

“I don’t know whether someone drew that symbol out of hate or because they wanted attention. Not knowing that is very scary because someone could genuinely believe in the meaning behind that symbol. As someone who’s a person of color and is queer, not knowing the intention behind it is scary,” Kasida said.

Schubert said that there are different ways the administration could have handled the situation of acknowledging the third Swastika.

“There’s two ways you can look at it. If the person is doing it for attention, and you give an email to the entire school about it, then you’re doing exactly what they want. But also on the flip side of that, you want to spread awareness,” Schubert said. “If we’re going to present ourselves as a place that’s very progressive, then we can’t ignore the issue. We have to back up that statement.”

Head of School Anthony Meyer could not be reached for comment.

Shen said that the school would benefit from additional conversations about targeted minorities in the community, including information about the Swastika.

“I wish we had more of these conversations more frequently, not just when things happen. I know that’s something that students have been asking for for years,” Shen said.

Junior Zach Weisman, a student in Shen’s class, said that many people are aware of what the Holocaust was but need to learn and understand what the current usage of the Swastika is.

“I think the education that we need to go for is how it has developed since the Holocaust and how it’s used in hate groups, not just against people that are Jewish, but all minorities. It’s a big symbol of hate,” Weisman said.

Shen said the incident caused her to reflect on her own bias.

“I wonder how much of my own bias played a role in not pausing right then and there to address it. It was interesting for me to reflect on my own level of bias,” Shen said.

Students in the discussion, including Kasida, said that the incident should have been addressed better by the administration.

“I think it’s important to make a statement, and make it clear that this doesn’t represent our school and community as a whole,” Kasida said. “I think that people don’t understand the impact that they’re having. And, due to the circumstances, no one knows who drew it, so there’s no consequences.”