Simsbury officials identify student responsible for anti-Semitic graffiti at high school

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SIMSBURY -- Administrators in the Simsbury School District said they have identified a student responsible for anti-Semitic graffiti found in the high school.

Matt Curtis, superintendent of schools, sent a letter to parents about two specific incidents at Simsbury High School recently.

Curtis, joined by Principal Andrew O'Brien, said that Wednesday afternoon that school officials are working with the Simsbury Police Department and have identified a student who was responsible for incidents that involved anti-Semitic graffiti. Due to confidentiality issues, they could not name the student, but were disciplining the student and providing mental health support.

In addition, the letter sent to parents described another incident in which a student had logged into a game of Kahoot with a screen name that was a statement against Jewish people.

O'Brien said in a letter to parents:

I want everyone to know that hateful racist comments and acts such as this have no place in our school. Racism exists only to divide and destroy communities. No one in our community should be made to feel that they are any less worthy or important based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or their mental or physical abilities. Whenever a community is confronted with ignorance such as this, it is incumbent on the members of that community to work together to address it.

Officials said a previously scheduled program from the Anti-Defamation League would be held for freshmen next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some Simsbury high schoolers Fox CT spoke with said the most recent incidents aren't the only ones plaguing the district.

"You’ve heard a lot of you know, anti-Semitic jokes. You’ve heard a lot of, I’m sorry, but people have just been mean to some kids that are Jewish," said Alex Wielebnicki,  a freshman.

"Way back in elementary school there was some instance where there was a swastika written somewhere," said a junior who would only give her first name, Lila.

Rabbi Howard Herman also recalls the printing of swastikas in the school yearbook years ago.

"Some of the kids will pitch pennies at them, if they know it’s Jewish kids coming down the stairs," said Herman of another alleged incident. "It wasn’t funny to begin with but they take it as being hurtful, they take it as being spiteful."

Herman, who is from the Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation around the corner from Simsbury High School, commends actions taken by administrators in this latest incident, including a video message created by the principal that was played during homeroom, as well as a recent meeting with faculty about the incidents. Even so, Herman thinks more can be done and plans to meet with administrators next week.

"We need to go forward and keep combating it, keep trying to deal with it in a positive, productive helpful way," Herman said, suggesting a diversity fair or creating a peace club.

Wielebnicki hopes something changes, and soon.

"I’m ashamed of my school and I hope this gets cleared up," he said.