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State Bill Would Teach Students About Hateful Symbols

Swastikas were found drawn on a pavilion at an Oyster Bay Park.
Swastikas were found drawn on a pavilion at an Oyster Bay Park. Photo Credit: Nassau County Police

Middle and high school students in New York may soon be taught the meaning of hateful symbols such as the swastika and noose as part of new legislation that has been introduced by state lawmakers.

With reports of hate crimes on the rise statewide, including dozens on Long Island and the Hudson Valley, lawmakers are seeking to improve student education on racist and anti-Semitic symbolism.

In Nassau County, there have already been 44 reported incidents, more than double at this point last year. Last week, seven swastikas were found drawn on a pavilion at an Oyster Bay park, and nooses have been spotted in several communities. Swastikas were also found in school textbooks, bathrooms, and libraries in the Hudson Valley.

“Too many New York students do not know the hateful history and meaning behind the swastika and noose,” Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said. “Today, Nassau County stood united behind my bill to ensure that all students learn this in their schools. Let’s make education key in the fight against bigotry.”

Assemblymember Charles Lavine is co-sponsoring the bill in the New York State Assembly.

The bill would require that all students in grades 6 through 12 include a component on the meaning of the swastika as the emblem of Nazi Germany, and the meaning of the noose as a symbol of racism and intimidation.

Lawmakers said that “the legislature hereby finds the recent spike in hate crimes across our state and nation as a whole to be highly disturbing and a societal epidemic in need of remedy. As many of our youth are not aware of the hateful connotations behind swastikas and nooses, it is necessary for the legislature to mandate compulsory education in all schools in regard to the meanings of these two symbols of hate.

“Requiring students to be educated in the significance of these displays of bigotry will go a long way toward fostering a more inclusive and tolerant society for all.” 

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