A school in the Toronto area is investigating an incident in which two students displayed swastikas and gave a Nazi salute in front of classmates.
In a letter to parents of pupils at Charles H. Best Middle School in North York, principal Elever Baker described the incident as “upsetting and unacceptable.”
He said that the school “acknowledges and regrets” the “harm this incident caused to members of our school community and to our shared school climate.”
Mr Baker said that the school took “great pride” in being “a welcoming, safe, and inclusive place,” adding that it was “not reflective of who we are and what we stand for as a school and as a community.”
The school was taking “immediate steps to address the issue,” and an investigation “remains ongoing” Mr Baker said. “We are committed to the work of intentionally identifying, interrupting, and addressing racism and discrimination…with a focus on antisemitism,” his letter stated.
Staff members were consulting with Toronto District School Board (TDSB) equity advisers to establish new strategies and tools for addressing antisemitism, he said.
Shari Schwartz-Maltz, a spokesperson for the TDSB and Chair of the School Board’s Jewish Heritage Committee, said that the students who displayed the swastika probably did not understand what it meant. It was “a symbol they see on TV, they’ve seen unfurled on flags at demonstrations” and which they see online. “It becomes normalised and they don’t know what it really means. What it means is a symbol of hate,” she said.
In a statement on Twitter, Mayor John Tory said that he was “very saddened” to hear of the incident, adding that it “demonstrates how much work we still have in front of us to inform and educate as part of our effort to eradicate antisemitism in all of its forms.”
In a separate incident, a teacher at another school in North York has been removed from the classroom after likening COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
The Acting Principal of Ledbury Park Elementary and Middle School wrote to parents to inform them about an “antisemitic incident”. Serge Parravano wrote that the teacher – who had likened the current COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the forced wearing of the yellow star by Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe – had been “removed from the classroom” and was “on home assignment pending an investigation.”
Mr Parravano said in his letter that the teacher’s comments were “upsetting and unacceptable” and was “not reflective of who we are and what we stand for as a school and a community.”
As part of its response, the school has arranged for Michelle Glied-Goldstein to speak to students. Ms Glied-Goldstein is an educator with the Holocaust education organisation, Carrying Holocaust Testimony from Generation to Generation.