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Statement regarding bias incident at Westfield High School

The full statement from officials regarding a bias incident at Westfield High School.

News 12 Staff

Dec 10, 2021, 12:16 AM

Updated 949 days ago

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Statement regarding bias incident at Westfield High School
STATEMENT FROM WESTFIELD MAYOR SHELLEY BRINDLE AND THE TOWN COUNCIL, WESTFIELD SUPERINTENDENT DR. RAYMOND GONZÁLEZ AND BOARD OF EDUCATION, WESTFIELD CLERGY ASSOCIATION, WESTFIELD HUMAN RELATIONS ADVISORY COMMISSION, THE DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR, ASSOCIATION, AND THE WESTFIELD AREA CHINESE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION
We stand united in our strong condemnation of all acts of hate, bias, and prejudice of any kind, and reaffirm our commitment to working together to ensure Westfield is an inclusive anti-hate, anti-racist community.
Yesterday, another ugly act of hate was discovered at Westfield High School when two swastikas and a racial slur were found carved into a bathroom stall. This follows an incident discovered at WHS last week, and several others that have occurred throughout our community over the past few years. The Westfield Police Department continues to investigate the most recent two incidents at WHS in order to identify the perpetrator(s) and the school district is prepared to impose the most severe level of consequences in accordance with the student code of conduct. Even as we write this, another swastika was discovered in a high school bathroom, although it appears to have been there for quite some time, which reminds us that this is, unfortunately, a longstanding problem. We recognize that bringing these incidents to light will uncover the pervasiveness of the problem and thus, the urgency to address it.
As leaders in education, faith, governance, and community, we continually strive to engage, educate, and support the Westfield community, imparting a message of respect and inclusivity in our words and deeds. This is clearly not enough. The increasing number and frequency of these bias crimes is wholly unacceptable, and we are asking every member of this community to join us in solidarity to play a role in eradicating hate, beginning with conversations at home.
As leaders in education, the Superintendent and Board of Education are angered and frustrated by the continued acts of hate in our schools. These despicable acts do not reflect who we are as a district. In each of our ten schools, on any given day, there are countless examples of how our students show kindness, character, and strength. As evidenced in our district goals this year, we’ve renewed our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with a focus on student-centered programming, culturally responsive curriculum and professional development, and community engagement. The partnership with our families remains critical as we speak as one voice to create a school environment that is safe, nurturing, and respectful for all students.
The Mayor and Town Council are outraged and saddened by these reprehensible acts, and will not be deterred from our steadfast commitment to engage community partners from a wide range of cultural and religious perspectives to facilitate a culture of inclusivity in Westfield -- an effort that continues in collaboration with the Human Relations Advisory Commission (HRAC) that was established by ordinance in 2020. We are also prepared to take any necessary legal action to deter and prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law, following our recent adoption of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) definition of antisemitism (www.ajc.org/the-working-definition-of-antisemitism) and raising civil penalties tenfold on graffiti bias crimes.
The Human Relations Advisory Commission reaffirms our priority to galvanize the community to not only extinguish flames of hate, but to cultivate a radically imagined community of love-minded people. This is a long journey, but together we can take the steps necessary to hold each other accountable to do our parts and to protect and care for our community members who are targeted.
As faith leaders that comprise the Westfield Clergy Association we are deeply troubled about the recent anti-Semitic and hate filled incidents at Westfield High School. Our faith traditions teach us that everyone is created in God’s image and as people of faith we must stand up, speak out, and create a world that is more peaceful. We commit ourselves to doing this work in each of our houses of worship and we will partner with members of different traditions to share a unified voice that hate has no place in our homes, in our schools, and in our town. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Westfield yet again condemns another public display of anti-Semitism and hate in town. As an organization that works toward racial and social justice in our community, we continue to be disheartened, disgusted, and outraged at these messages of hate directed at our neighbors and friends. With broken hearts we watched the security stanchions being erected around Temple Emanu-El over the last week and we encourage all residents to take time to reflect on what that really means . . . that this was necessary for the safety of the congregation in their worship. That should give us all pause. We pledge to stand with the Jewish community and all minorities and others in Westfield who are targeted by hate. We will seek new and different ways to teach and foster inclusion, tolerance, and how to be an upstander rather than a bystander against hatred.
The Westfield Area Chinese American Association (WACAA) condemns all forms of anti-Semitism and hate toward all groups. These behaviors are despicable, unconscionable and un-American. They must stop.
We share the frustration and sadness within the community from these ongoing acts, and stand with the many residents who seek to be part of the solution. Now is the time for all members of our community to come together as allies to support our friends and neighbors from the Jewish and minority communities who have been targeted and feel unsafe. We each have an active role to play by speaking out against any hateful graffiti, speech, and actions. Concurrently, we are collectively discussing opportunities to educate, inform, and engage the public to reaffirm our solidarity with those community members who have been targeted. The public is encouraged to offer suggestions, comments, or share personal experiences at hrac@westieldnj.gov.
To further the conversations that need to begin at home about fostering inclusion standing against hate, the HRAC and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association will host a Community Discussion on Accountability and Action Against Hate after the holidays to discuss how we can do better, with additional details to follow.
As community leaders, we strongly condemn all acts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, and expressions of hatred targeting any group or individual. An attack on one of us is an attack on us all. In the spirit of the holiday season, we ask that each of us reflect on what role we can play in eradicating hate, and recommit ourselves to ensuring we are a community where every member feels safe, included, and valued.


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