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Fourth Swastika Is Found On Grounds Of Westchester School District

John Jay High School
John Jay High School Photo Credit: File

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. -- A new act of vandalism involving a swastika has been reported on Katonah-Lewisboro school grounds, officials announced Monday.

It marks the fourth time a swastika was found on district grounds over the last four months.

Police responded and are investigating after a swastika was found drawn in a high school bathroom on Monday, Katonah-Lewisboro Schools Superintendent Andrew Selesnick said in an email sent to parents early in the evening.

"Understanding and sharing the frustration and anger this ongoing behavior causes, I want to provide some information and reminders," he wrote.

"On Thursday and Friday last week, every high school student attended a powerful presentation by holocaust survivor Judith Altmann. Watching and listening to our students, it was evident to anyone in attendance that the vast majority were engaged and moved by the presentations.

"It is increasingly clear to us that the vast majority of students reject hateful behavior and understand the negative power of the swastika. I say that both because of the responses in last week’s assemblies (and ensuing classroom conversations) and because of the increasing speed with which students are alerting us to behavior they find intolerable.

"At the same time, clearly, a tiny fraction of our population (and we are confident that it is a tiny fraction based on our ongoing conversations with students) is engaging in this challenging behavior. We have reason to believe the behavior is driven more by a desire to be disruptive or a need for attention, than due to hate targeted at others. Nonetheless, we redouble our efforts to find those responsible, and will continue working to educate all students.

"In our recent community meeting on this topic, there was discussion about the extent to which we might make changes in the school environment to try to stop this behavior. One always struggles with this balance. We value the freedom students are afforded at John Jay High School because we believe it is appropriate preparation for life after school. We are reluctant to take steps that restrict those freedoms, and reluctant to make changes that negatively impact all in light of the behavior of so very few. Nonetheless, we will make some subtle changes (unnoticeable to most) in our efforts to find those responsible."

John Jay Principal Steven Siciliano also sent a message to all high school students, asking them to share any relevant information, and reminding them of the serious consequences facing students found responsible.

"It continues to be a significant part of our work to teach students the value of compassion, empathy, and respect for all," Selesnick said.

Earlier this month, a swastika was also found in a bathroom at John Jay High School, in that incident, in the library.

Swastikas were found carved into a tree on the school's grounds in January.

Over the holiday break in late December, spray painted swastikas were found on playground equipment at the shuttered Lewisboro Elementary School in South Salem. Three local students are suspects in the first case, although officials have not announced whether there are any suspects for the high school incidents.

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