South

Norwell students disciplined for swastika posting

A November 2017 file foto showing logos of familiar social media companies.
AFP/Getty Images
A November 2017 file foto showing logos of familiar social media companies.

Two Norwell High School students were disciplined after posting an image of themselves with swastikas on social media.

School Superintendent Matthew Keegan did not detail the type of discipline, saying only in a statement released Feb. 2 that the high school acted “quickly and appropriately.”

“The Norwell schools and the town of Norwell are not places that encourage, accept, or tolerate anti-Semitism or racial discrimination,” Keegan added in an e-mail. “This event has demonstrated that we need to be constantly vigilant with our children and students, and that vigilance is best manifested by acknowledging the work we need to continue to do in these areas.”

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Keegan said high school principal William Fish has contacted the New England office of the Anti-Defamation League in Boston on the best way to respond to the incident.

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“For our students, children, and the broader community, this is a teaching moment,” Keegan said. “As a school system, we focus on American values of mutual respect, recognizing diversity, civility, and thoughtful citizenship as cornerstones of a democratic society. Events like this make it clear that, even now, our work is never finished.”

Robert Trestan, director of the Anti-Defamation League, said there has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic and hate incidents in schools across the state. The Norwell one demonstrated the communitywide impact, as well as the challenge of dealing with students’ digital activity outside of school, he said.

“The lines between being in school and being out of school are blurred because of technology,” he said. “What happens in the virtual world is having a daily impact inside schools.”

Trestan said he hoped to start an ongoing program with the high school.

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“You can’t have a school assembly and check the box that you convened everyone, had a good discussion, and the problem will go away,” he said. “There needs to be a long-term commitment in the schools and in the town.”

This was the second incident in less than a year involving swastikas in Norwell.

In April 2017, someone spray-painted a swastika on a walking path in town, prompting church leaders to hold a “peace rally” expressing solidarity against hate messages.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.