Swastikas found in N.J. school for the second time this year

For the second time in six weeks, authorities are investigating swastikas found in a Bergen County school, according to a letter sent to parents.

On Tuesday morning, three swastikas were found by Pascack Valley High School staff members, Superintendent Erik Gundersen said.

The areas were immediately closed off to remove the symbols of hate, and Hillsdale Police was called to investigate.

The graffiti comes one day after a Board of Education meeting that addressed a September incident when a swastika was found in two boys’ bathroom stalls at the high school.

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Gundersen condemned all acts of intolerance, violence and hate in the letter, adding that programs promoting a compassionate and respectful environment will be instituted in the coming weeks “to help us address what has unfortunately gone beyond isolated incidents.”

The superintendent contacted local religious leaders and the Anti-Defamation League regarding the incidents, as well as reaching out to student leaders, he said. 

“We cannot let an individual, or small group of individuals, who spreads a message of hate, become a cloud casting a shadow over our wonderful community,” the letter sent to parents read. “Pascack Valley’s students and educators strive toward mutual respect and understanding, which has and continues to shine in so many ways.”

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, whose 15-year-old daughter attends Pascack Valley High School, said the school should have relayed the issues to parents more quickly.

Schepisi said she heard of the incidents from her daughter and believes the school briefed parents about the second incident after her Facebook post gained traction in a local group. 

“We need to call it out each and every time it happens. We have to teach our children how unacceptable religious intolerance is,” she added.

Schepisi said she hopes school officials use this as an opportunity to teach students about core values and denounce hate in all forms, especially after two incidents.

“We all need to start working together to condemn this stuff on a bipartisan matter, and really start leading by example,” she said. “We need to show this is totally unacceptable in our society.”

Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at snietomunoz@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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