Take a map of Greater Boston and place your finger on a town or city. Chances are that in the last year, or month, that community experienced an antisemitic incident.
Much of this Jew hatred is occurring in public school districts, and at universities. Just this week, swastikas – along with homophobic and racist statements – were found in a student bathroom at the Holten Richmond Middle School in Danvers.
Danvers school and municipal officials are already reeling from a recent Boston Globe report that alleged that over the last 16 months, the town balked at releasing three investigative reports about alleged racism, sexism, homophobia and antisemitism in the district.
Much of the focus is on the behavior of the 2019-2020 high school hockey team, whose members allegedly took part in a group text that mocked Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Other allegations include racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior by the team.
It is time for elected Danvers officials and top educators to be transparent with students, parents and residents. The town needs to examine why a culture of hate was allowed to flourish in its high school. It also needs to reassure students that they are safe.
It could look to Duxbury for guidance. Last spring, after Duxbury’s football team verbally called out “Auschwitz “ as an offensive play during a game, the town began an investigation. The town’s football coach was fired shortly after the game, the superintendent resigned, and the school’s athletic director was not rehired. The Duxbury report about the team’s behavior was made public and posted on the town website. Investigators reported that in addition to using Jewish terms and the name of a Nazi concentration camp as plays, homophobic slurs and profanity was uttered on the sidelines.
Since then, Duxbury residents have created a dialogue to discuss what happened and ways to prevent hate from being a focal point in schools. And last summer, 18 Duxbury students completed the Salem-based Lappin Foundation’s first ever Holocaust Symposium for Teens, which included a trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. These actions signal the town’s commitment to learning from the investigation and making it a better place to live and learn.
The Danvers school district has much work to do to become a more inclusive and safe place for its students. It’s time for Danvers to take action.