Anti-Semitic vandalism at Centennial High School in Roswell has prompted a swift response by school officials and Jewish community organizations.
A photo of a swastika in blue spray paint on the outside of the school appeared Monday, Feb. 4, in social media postings.
Police from Roswell and Fulton County Schools are investigating vandalism in several areas of the campus. As the AJT went to press, there was no information about the identity of the vandals or that any arrests had been made.
The vandalism was discovered when school employees arrived Monday morning.
“I am especially disgusted that this perpetrator or group of perpetrators painted a swastika, a historic and extreme emblem of hatred, on our school,” Centennial’s Principal, Anthony Newbold, wrote in a letter addressed to “Centennial Family.”
“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,” Newbold wrote.
In a letter to teachers and staff, Newbold wrote, “An activity bus, the main building and entrance, a trailer for band, signs, the weight room, and the stadium areas were all vandalized. While all of this was disturbing, what was reported later was worse. These perpetrators also painted two swastikas on the stones in the front of our building.”
Newbold appealed for help in identifying the perpetrators, writing, “Now, we need your help! Teachers, talk to your students and encourage them to talk to you. If they have information that may assist us in finding the culprits, please let us know.”
In both notes, Newbold included the words “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength,” excerpted from a quote by poet Maya Angelou.
Centennial, which opened in 1997, has about 2,000 students in grades nine to 12.
The Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism plans a community meeting Sunday, Feb. 10, from 7 to 8:15 p.m., at Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs.
“We cannot be complacent in the face of these increasing acts of hatred,” said Lauren Menis, who co-founded AIAAS in March 2017. “These small acts can lead to bigger acts of hatred down the line if left unchecked. We as a community – not just the Jewish community, but the entire Atlanta community – must stand up and be heard. We must show that there is no place for any form of hate in our schools.”
Menis said that those participating will include Rabbi Spike Anderson of Temple Emanu-El; Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League; Sally Levine, executive director of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, State Rep. Josh McLaurin, a Democrat whose District 51 includes Roswell, and Christopher M. Matthews, assistant superintendent for Student Support Services for Fulton County Schools.
Other speakers were to be announced when their participation was confirmed.
McLaurin posted a photo of the swastika on Facebook, writing, “It’s an outrage, and a reminder that racism and hate are still among us every day. We can’t rest when something like this happens — we have to lift our voices in solidarity with those who are threatened by this. Roswell will be an inclusive community only if we fight to keep it that way.”
The Anti-Defamation League Southeast office in Atlanta posted that it was in contact with both the school and Roswell police.
Rabbi Michael Bernstein of Congregation Gesher L’Torah in Alpharetta spoke with Newbold, who told local media that he had contacted several area rabbis to plan a response.
Wendy Frank, a Centennial parent, told WSB-TV News, “I’m horrified. I’m so sad and I’m furious. I want them to know this hurts many, many, many people. Not just Jewish people, not just kids at Centennial High School, it hurts our whole community.”
Responses on social media included suggestions that students need greater education about the Holocaust, including field trips to such places as the Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945 exhibit in Sandy Springs, the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum’s permanent Holocaust exhibit and its Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education.
Georgia is among the states that requires teaching about the Holocaust in school curricula, but also is among a handful of states without a hate crimes law, something that parents interviewed by local media said was needed.
In the 2018-19 school year, anti-Semitic vandalism, including swastikas, has been reported at schools in East Lansing, Mich.; Davis, Calif.; Binghamton, N.Y.; Rockville, Md.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Hillsdale, N.J.
- Dave Schechter
- Centennial High School
- Temple Emanu-El
- Anti-Defamation League
- Georgia Commission on the Holocaust
- Congregation Gesher L'Torah
- Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education
- Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism
- The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum