A recent rash of hate symbols that have confounded officials and angered parents have spread from Pascack Valley High School to Pascack Hills.
This time, swastikas and a racial slur against black were found Friday in a bathroom at Pascack Hills High in Montvale, Schools Supt. P. Erik Gundersen confirmed.It marks the first such recent incident at PHHS, joining three in less than two months at PVHS.
Gundersen, finding himself having to address the troubling issue yet again, said district officials have two specific objectives -- educating the public and making sure whoever was responsible pays dearly.
“Let me be perfectly clear: A person who marks anything with swastikas or racial slurs is not demonstrating freedom of speech – they are committing both hate and bias crimes,” the superintendent wrote.
That means an arrest and adult criminal charges against anyone 18 or older or delinquency complaints against juveniles -- as well as district penalties, he warned.
At the same time, Gundersen said district officials have been in conference with the Anti-Defamation League and the Pascack Valley Clergy Council.
“Our goal in working with both of these organizations is to educate the community on the importance of respecting and embracing our differences," the superintendent said.
Students, parents, administrators and staff have tried to unify the district following a string of attacks at Pascack Valley High School.
SEE: As calls for healing intensified, more symbols of hate were found at Pascack Valley High School -- for what is now the third time in less than two months, officials said.
Hillsdale police were in the process of investigating two swastikas found in separate PVHS boys’ bathroom stalls when three more were found the morning of Election Day, Nov. 6.
Soon after, students said homophobic and racial slurs were drawn on plaques honoring former Pascack Valley players on one of the baseball field's dugouts.
Students there invited local religious leaders and representatives from Valley Chabad, Temple Beth-Orr and the Jewish Federation Northern New Jersey to a rally against hate that featured a video of Holocaust survivors, a walkout to the football stadium and a choir singing John Lennon's "Imagine."
"One message resonated in all the speeches and comments made by the students: The swastikas and other hateful messages recently found are not indicative of the student body as a whole," state Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.
The youngsters "are appalled by what has occurred and are rightfully upset that the ignorance and/or hatred by a few branded their school in a negative light," she said.
ALSO SEE: Ridgewood High School became the latest target of hate symbols when someone carved a swastika next to a Star of David in a girls' bathroom stall, authorities said.
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