Following CHS Graffiti Calling for Violence Against Jews, School District Works to Improve Reporting Procedures

Acting South Orange-Maplewood Supt. of Schools Dr. Kevin Gilbert is taking steps to ensure timely reporting of antisemitic bias and hate incidents to police in light of an apparent reporting failure that occurred this week regarding graffiti threatening violence against Jews that was found in a bathroom stall at Columbia High School.

“This morning, Dr. Gilbert met with Maplewood Police Chief Albert Sally and South Orange Police Chief Ernesto Morillo to discuss the antisemitic graffiti incident, as well as protocols and procedures to follow when these incidents happen,” wrote District Communications Director Paul Brubaker on December 15 in response to questions from Village Green. “Soon, Dr. Gilbert will be meeting with all school principals and their administrative teams to make sure they understand and follow the protocols in responding to incidents of antisemitism and hate speech in our schools.”

Brubaker did not respond to questions about when the graffiti was discovered, who was aware of it, and when and if it was reported by school administrators to the Maplewood Police.

Maplewood Police reported that they learned of the incident on Thursday, Dec. 14, several hours after CHS Principal Frank Sanchez emailed parents and students about it, saying that the graffiti had been discovered earlier in the week and that “school administration is working closely with local authorities to investigate the matter, and appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken against those responsible for the graffiti.”

The Maplewood Township Committee and Police issued a public statement about the incident via an email to the community on December 14, at 3:47 p.m. The school district and Board of Education followed with a statement on December 15 at 10:18 a.m.

Read more here: UPDATE: Maplewood Township, Board of Ed, Superintendent Respond to Antisemitic Graffiti at Columbia High

Per SOMSD Policy 8465, “The Superintendent or designee shall promptly notify the local police department and the bias investigation officer for the county prosecutor’s office when a bias crime or bias related act has been committed or is about to be committed in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:16-6.3(e)1. The Superintendent or designee shall immediately notify the local police department and the bias investigation officer for the county prosecutor’s office where there is reason to believe that a bias crime or bias-related act that involves an act of violence has been or is about to be physically committed against a student, or there is otherwise reason to believe that a life has been or will be threatened in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:16-6.3(e)2.”

Per the policy, a “bias crime” means “any criminal offense where the person or persons committing the offense acted with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race; color; religion; gender; disability; sexual orientation; gender identity or expression; national origin; or ethnicity.” A “bias-based act” means “an act directed at a person, group of persons, private property, or public property that is motivated in whole or in part by prejudice based on race,; gender; disability; religion; sexual orientation; gender identity or expression; national origin; or ethnicity. A bias-related act need not involve conduct at constitutes a criminal offense.”

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