Students react to swastika found in Meridian elevator

Tessa Kassoff, Amity Pratt, and Preston Lieu

On November 29, an email detailing an incident that took place in Meridian was sent to high school parents and staff. 

The email was addressing “an image of a swastika was found in an elevator within Meridian,” and explained that, “in the forthcoming days, [administration] will be reinforcing our zero-tolerance policy regarding religious and/or racially based hate messages and images to our student body and community.” The email also encouraged students and staff that would have any information on the incident to come forward. 

Associate Principal David Serensits addressed the incident for students a day later on November 30 in the form of a Schoology message, where he released a statement promising to discuss the issue in Stable Group. 

When asked about the timing of the event, Assistant Principal Peter Laub shared that the incident “was sometime before break, and it was inside the elevator.” He also added that the administration took immediate action. “It was found, we were notified, and we went with a custodian, and the custodian cleaned it off,” Mr. Laub said.  

Mr. Laub also voiced his own opinions about the hate crime. “This is unacceptable. We don’t want this in our community. Whether it was a student, parent, [or] employee, we don’t know. And if I can’t find who did it, which is sort of where we’re at, we approach it from an education standpoint,” Mr. Laub explained. 

Both students and staff brought attention to the numerous security cameras scattered around the school and questioned whether they could be of good use for the investigation. “On the security cameras, we can see people going in and out of the elevator, lots of people, but I can’t see in the elevator,” Mr. Laub responded. 

Ms. Anna Barr, a history teacher, weighed in on the event, as she was one of the first to see the swastika in the elevator. “I was planning to take the elevator up to the 4th floor and [the swastika] was there on the elevator door. I saw Mr. Laub in the hallway when I got to the 4th floor, and so I showed him the picture,” Ms. Barr said. 

Ms. Barr also explained that she came across the hate symbol on October 17. Following this discovery, students and staff were curious as to why it took until November 29 for the high school administration to publicly respond to the incident.

“In the beginning, I felt like [the administration’s response] was very performative considering that I had heard so many talks before about how the school was keeping [the act of hate] from us for an amount of time and how they weren’t completely candid with us,” sophomore Bethany Michael said, the co-president of the Black Student Union. “[Sharing the information earlier] felt like something they needed to do because a lot of students knew about it.”

While the cause of this delay and those who are responsible for drawing this symbol may never be disclosed, student leaders have taken the time to work together to enact meaningful and long-lasting change that will protect community members from these disdainful acts in the future.

SCA Executive Board Members (background, left to right) seniors Chloe Calabrese, Jay Humphreys, and Stella Turner present the results of a student culture survey before local Rabbi Aft (center left, in blue) discusses how he responds to hate crimes. (Photo by Ms. Kish Rafique)

On January 6, student leaders from the Black Student Union, Gender Sexuality Alliance, SCA Social Justice Committee, Mustang Ambassadors, and Class Councils met at Temple Rodef Shalom in McLean to discuss recent events and encourage student action.

The event was run by the Student Council Executive Board due to what teacher advisers viewed as a lack of response by administrators. Coordinated by students and for students, the intent was to create an off-campus space for student leaders to voice their opinions and reflect on Rabbi Aft’s experience with hate speech, ultimately concluding in brainstorming ways to educate other students in preventing and dealing with incidents of hate.

While it was a step in the right direction, many student leaders left believing that the entire schools needs to work towards eliminating these attacks once and for all — not just select students.

“I was happy that they were trying to make some kind of effort,” Michael continued. “I think more people need to be involved, I think this should be school wide, and I think it should be continuous, it shouldn’t have been just one event after something got out.” 

The presentation of student culture survey results made by the SCA Executive Board can be found linked here.