By Meredith McCulloch and Julie Turner
The Bedford school administration has moved quickly to address the issue of swastikas found at two schools. Two were drawn in two different boys’ bathrooms at the high school last week. Another, along with a hateful message about Jews, was found outside Lane School on playground equipment. Lane Principal Rob Ackerman photographed them and then removed them immediately. A swastika also appeared on playground equipment near the Hanscom Field elementary school.
In a talk to students on BHS Live (a student-led daily program of announcements and school issues), Principal Henry Turner talked about how hurtful such symbols can be and encouraged students to stand up against hate and to “conduct random acts of kindness” to offset those random hateful actions.
Understanding that some students may not know the history of the swastika as a threatening hateful symbol, Turner also did a BHS Live presentation on the history of hate symbols. Students will have an opportunity to see the film “Not in Our Town,” a PBS documentary about how Billings, Montana residents pushed back against anti-Semitism. A student/teacher affinity group is being formed to discuss next steps. Turner urged any student who was involved to “talk with an adult as the way to begin repair.”
The incidents were being addressed within the broader community as well. The Violence Prevention Coalition was alerted, and the Bedford Clergy met to share information, ideas and next steps. At Bedford’s annual Community Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving on November 24, held this year at First Parish, the host minister John Gibbons said in his welcoming remarks,
It is especially important that we are together today for, in recent days there have been multiple incidents of crude swastikas drawn on Bedford school property. Someone or ones, as yet unknown, are of course responsible. But we all are responsible for Bedford being a community of caring, safety and inclusion. Hate is unacceptable, and we are fortunate to live in a community where representatives of our schools, police, government, and faith communities work pro-actively together to learn from such incidents, and to renew our pledge of respect for all people.
Bedford’s Police Chief Robert Bongiorno added in an interview on Monday, “Bedford is a caring and sensitive community. There is no place for Anti-Semitic incidents or other types of hateful acts. Moving forward, the Bedford Police will partner with community stakeholders on educational and other prevention measures.”
The Bedford Citizen will continue to report the facts related to this story as they develop.