In response to the recent act of vandalism at Centennial High School and other reports of antisemitism, Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism (AiAAS) held a Town Hall on Feb. 10 at Temple Emanuel in Sandy Springs.
According to Lauren Menis of AiAAS, the Town Hall as a "a very moving night."
"There was so much support in the room, which was filled with not only members of the Jewish and non-Jewish community who were all concerned about the recent acts of Anti-Semitism and hate, happening within or on the grounds of our schools," she said.
Menis also noted "many educators, including high level school administrators, legislators and rabbis" were in attendance.
The town hall addressed many concerns expressed by the audience:
How acts of Anti-semitism and hate are being responded to by schools and law enforcement.
What students and parents should do if students are a victim of anti-Semitism.
What kinds of education is taking place in the schools, both for students and teachers about the Holocaust and/or the building of understanding and respect for people of different religions and cultures.
The panelists providing responses were: Centennial High School Assistant Principal Dr. Bre Peeler; Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Allison Padilla- Goodman; North Springs High School Principal Michael Scott Hanson; Georgia Commission on the Holocaust Executive Director and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Fellow Sally N. Levine; Fulton County Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Chris Matthews; Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Andy Mossman; Dr. Quentin Fretwell, DeKalb County School District Department of Student Relations; Georgia House District 51 State Representative Josh McLaurin and Marist School Teacher Brendan M. Murphy.
Following the Town Hall, AiAAS is working on "compiling guidance and resources the panelists provided , including a GBI app students and parents can use to report any incidences. Guidance for how parents can report incidents to Fulton and DeKalb County school administrators, and resources for parents, students and teachers from the Anti-Defamation League and the Georgia Commission for the Holocaust," according to Menis.
Panelists also provided "a number of different resources parents can use when acts of hate and anti-Semitism happen in their schools."
"To that end, actionable guidance was presented, including downloadable apps at the county level with “quick hit” links to administration, the importance of both students and parents informing administrators of incidences, understanding who your child’s “trusted adult”’ at school is to ensure that he/she have someone they trust that they can confide in. We also learned that the counties and schools have policies and procedures for evaluating incidents and associated discipline," she said.
On Feb. 4, a parent discovered swastikas spray painted on multiple areas of Centennial High School's exterior.
Principal Anthony Newbold sent out a letter in response to the incident.
"I am especially disgusted that this perpetrator, or group of perpetrators, painted a swastika, a historic and extreme emblem of hatred, on our school," said Centennial High School Principal Anthony Newbold in the letter.
"Let me be extremely clear, graffiti and school vandalism will not be tolerated and our community rejects the hatred these symbols represent. Be assured that as Centennial Knights, we find these actions offensive and completely against our beliefs as an open and accepting school community," said Newbold.
The school is working with Roswell Police Department and the Fulton County Schools Police Department to find those responsible for the act of vandalism at the school.
Rebecca Bendit Gordon posted a photo of one of the columns outside of the school with a blue swastika spray painted on it.
According to Gordon's post, there were multiple occurrences "all over the outside of Centennial High School."
"The hatred and stupidity that someone has while doing this, it's disgusting. I have no words, I hope they find the person responsible," said Gordon in her Facebook post.
According to school officials, there is "no news of who is responsible"
Centennial High School was already "in the process of cleaning the graffiti" by early afternoon the same day.
Neighbor News Online reached out to Gordon for comments, but she respectfully referred to Wendy Frank, who also commented on Gordon's photo, as the one to refer to for further information.
Frank is the mother of a Centennial High School student and friend of Gordon.
She added the vandalism was not limited to the front of the school, but "a lot of places" including "on the concrete sides of the building, school buses, marching band trailer and weight room."
Frank recalled returning to Centennial High School mid-afternoon and "it was clean when I went by around 1:15 p.m."
It was confirmed that there are security cameras outside the building where the incidences occurred.
"Roswell Police and Fulton County Schools Police are reviewing the camera footage to figure out who is responsible."
"This will not be swept under the carpet at our school," said Frank on Facebook.
After discovering the photo through the "Jewish Moms of Atlanta" Facebook group, Frank reached out to her rabbi and the Jewish Student Union Rabbi at Centennial High School.
Frank collaborating with Anti-defamation League Regional Director Allison Goodman for "setting up a meeting with Centennial HS Principal Newbold to brainstorm and problem solve this issue and bring more training to the school, students and community at large."
Frank plans to emphasize the importance of "educating the community about what that symbol means."
Newbold aims to collaborate for a "unified response to this event."
"If they do know what it means and are doing it (spray painting it on property), that's even more severe. If they don't, that is even worse. This is not something to be taken lightly, people can't just post it," she said.
Newbold requested anyone who may have "any information that will assist our security team in identifying the perpetrators," to contact him directly.
In response to the incident at North Springs High School, Principal Mark Hanson shared with parents that North Springs and other Fulton high schools "received funding from Fulton County for high definition digital cameras."
According to Fulton County Schools Communication Department, "there was not a swastika image found, but a small (1-inch by 2-inch) message reading 'KKK rules'" reported at the school.
"A student was identified and it was determined to have occurred weeks ago. That student is now receiving appropriate discipline as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct," said Susan Romanick with FCS Communications.
Hanson described the cameras have "the ability to monitor the entire school campus."
Menis described it as "reassuring for those parents there last night of the increased security measures being taken by the school."
Neighbor News Online will continue to provide details on the investigation as details become available.