Letters to the Editor

Letter from South Orange Middle School Principal Lynn Irby


The following was sent via email to the South Orange Middle School (SOMS) community.

Dear SOMS Community & Families,

Last week when students and families shared their shock and pain about anti-Semitic images, comments posted by SOMS students on social media, we knew out of a plain sense of human decency, the administration at SOMS needed to act quickly to stop these acts.  And we did.  We know the pain inflicted when an individual or people are not respected.

Sign Up for E-News

One acts quickly but carefully. We immediately started to investigate these current specific racial incidents. We reached in the community to find root causes behind them.  Why were they happening in a community reputed for its diversity; why at this time?  We know the national political climate has been spewing racial comments, but why weren’t our children able to understand this hurtful rhetoric was wrong?  After all, they are part of our community. They should have been more prepared to deal with the current national environment; minimally they shouldn’t be copying it. What lack of training; which safeguards, eliminated, allowed this incident involving SOMS students to occur.

Concurrently, the Jewish community reached out, to offer to work with us. This past Monday, we met with Jewish religious leaders in a very fruitful meeting. The Coalition on Race and the Anti-Defamation League joined us as well. It became obvious, that while this is not a new occurrence to our community, our community had always come together in the past to curb hurtful behavior.  We are coming together now as a community, but with a change.  his time, we wanted to put in place programs and safeguards to stem the very cycle of this behavior.

We are reviewing practices among administrators (past and present), as well as teachers, students etc. which may have contributed to a racial atmosphere within SOMS. We will be looking into restoring programs that taught our students respect, such as Respect, Reflect, Remember, a program though highly effective, was suspended at SOMS a few years ago.

From the Jewish community, we have asked for some of their programs, those which have proved successful in sensitizing people on racism. We are in the process of also reviewing SPLCs, (Southern Poverty Law Center) teaching tolerance and respect guidelines, and Anti-Defamation League lesson plans and Table Talk for parents.   Our goal, however, goes beyond tolerating diversity. It is to embrace it.

Our next move is to involve the community. Friday, May 20th, we will meet with a wider range of religious leaders, as well as local community leaders, town officials, the HSA, our staff and students.

We want and need their input. A lot of people are saying the right things have not been done, so lets change that too. 

While we plan to have some ongoing meetings to be sure we are moving and keep moving in the right direction, the important thing is not to ignore what has happened.  Actions now, without retaliations, must be started. We are not going to teach nor allow retaliation. Retaliation goes hand and hand with racism and bullying. We want our students to truly understand there are better ways.

There is work in front of us, but due to the unyielding support of our students, our teachers and the community, we will move in the right direction.

After all, we have students who participated in the Martin Luther King Cultural Horizons Club/O Ambassadors Club, and over the years developed programs such as Sister Schools in Malawi East Africa, Uganda, Haiti, South Africa as well as here in the U.S., the Joy sisters who founded Girls Helping Girls, Briana Anderson with the BAM Social Action Network, the Model UN students, the Students for Social Change club, and surely we can do the work to further develop SOMS now. Our graduates, such as Zach Braff, AJ Calloway, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Robert Verdi, are known for their success as well as their embrace of diversity.

Our students are already aware; their actions make a difference.

Ours is a community which faced challenges in these areas before. This community stopped racist’s paintings on garage doors in the 80’s, cross burnings, house steering in the 90’s, and student protests not so long ago. However we also acknowledge, from certain federal rulings our district has received over the last few years, we have not always lived up to our responsibility to respect all diversities.

I don’t know all, but I do know these are urgent times. The cycles of disrespecting others in the district or those cycles resurfacing nationally across the country, can’t be allowed to adversely impact who we are and what our community stands for.   

This is one of those moments in which we modify and strengthen our behaviors OR we accept responsibility for colluding with a behavior that does not embrace diversity.

We talk of moments in which higher values can be learned and taught. This is our moment.

My childhood was spent growing up in South Orange. I went to SOMS.  I am proud of that. I want SOMS students to acquire and learn an increased sense of responsibility, pride and growth through what has occurred.

Together, if we hold each other accountable, we can make this so.

With respect,

Lynn A. Irby

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Columbia High School Principal's Removal Raises More Questions Than It Answers

The last Twitter post from Columbia High School principal Elizabeth Aaron is very telling. 

The four-year CHS schools chief, who was recently, surprisingly, reassigned to a vague “Principal on Special Assignment” post by the school district, was a Twitter regular on her @CougarPrincipal account. There she would often promote the school’s successes and notable staff and ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 18

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll find out how accessing care at Atlantic Health System is now easier, more affordable and closer to home than ever, learn which item from the produce aisle could be the newest weapon against cancer, see what Atlantic Health System, the New York Times and Instagram all have in common and much more.



Maplewood Police Blotter - Stolen Vehicle in Maplewood Recovered by South Orange Police

July 18, 2018

July 11 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime during the early morning hours, a vehicle was stolen from a residence on the 400 block of Richmond Ave. The vehicle was recovered by the South Orange Police Department the same morning.

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Robberies Reported on July 5

July 2 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime over the previous two days, a U-Haul truck was stolen from a business on Newark Way.

July 4 - Theft from Auto; During the overnight hours an unsecured vehicle parked on Elberta Rd was entered and keys were stolen from it.

July 5 - Robberies; At approximately 1:30 a.m., a male was assaulted by two males ridding bicycles while he was walking on ...

Free 'Movies in the Park' on July 18 and August 23 in Maplewood

July 16, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Free "Movies in the Park" are planned for Wednesday, July 18, and Thursday, August 23, a program hosted by the Maplewood Police Department in conjunction with the Maplewood Recreation Department, the Maplewood Office of Cultural Affairs, SOMA Film Festival and SOMA Municipal Alliance.

The movie on July 18 will be The Incredibles, shown in Dehart Park, ...

National Weather Service Issues Heat Advisory Through 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17

NEW YORK, NY, - The National Weather Service issued a 'Heat Advisory' this morning for Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union and Hudson Counties in New Jersey. The heat advisory will remain in effect from noon Monday July 16, until 6 p.m. Tuesday July 17.

Extreme heat can cause illness and death among at- risk population who cannot stay cool. The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during ...

Upcoming Events


Fri, July 20, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Fri, July 20, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Sat, July 21, 7:30 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, SHORT HILLS

Solid Gold with Bobby Valli at Par 440

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Thu, July 26, 6:00 PM

River Barge Park & Marina, Carlstadt

Meadowlands Discovery Sunset Eco-Cruise

Green Travel

Statement From Emergency Committee to Reinstate Principal Aaron

July 10, 2018


We created a movement. We leveraged our collective 1,600 voices and forced the District leadership to sit with us today [Monday] and discuss the poorly communicated, weekend announcement that CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron was being reassigned.

Our meeting was a first step in both accountability and transparency as Dr. Ficarra revealed Principal ...

Coalition on Race Responds to Changes in School District Administrators

The Board of Trustees of the Community Coalition on Race seeks racial equity, integration, and excellence in education for all students in our schools. While the pace of change has been frustratingly slow, we have seen some progress. Yet, candidly, there are too many students of color who are not well served in SOMA, who still experience segregated classrooms and who still suffer from racial ...

Those Boarded-Up Homes in the West Ward? Newark Has a Plan for Them.

July 19, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - The city is using the power of eminent domain to reduce the number of condemned homes and vacant lots scattered throughout the West Ward.

The redevelopment plan for the West Ward was introduced in 2016 and encompasses properties from the border of Irvington to South 13th Street between South Orange Avenue and 16th Avenue. One of the main goals of the plan is to support new ...

Lawmakers Denounce SCOTUS Nomination at Essex County Courthouse

NEWARK, NJ - State Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin said it was important to support local women’s health organizations at a state level should President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee be approved.

The assemblywoman joined state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, congressional leaders and women's rights groups yesterday at the steps of the Essex County Courthouse ...

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

NJ Residents Take Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

New Plumber Joins the Woolley Home Solutions Team

July 16, 2018

We are excited to announce a new addition to the Woolley team! Our new plumber, Oscar Buonafina, is an expert plumber with nearly a decade of industry experience serving New Jersey homeowners. He is also a NJ Master Plumber Since 2007. As a military veteran, Oscar truly understands hard work and commitment, and we’re so happy to bring him on board!

"I believe in service to people ...

Maplewood Brings Local Youth to the Governing Table With the Youth Advisory Committee

The Maplewood Township Committee cordially invites diverse student residents of Maplewood who are enrolled in private or public school in grades 8 through 12 to apply to serve on its new Youth Advisory Committee.  In order to continue empowering local youth whose recent advocacy on - gun safety, safe schools, voting rights, immigration, greater institutional equity and inclusion, to name a ...

Repairs to Boyden Avenue Between Elmwood Avenue and Springfield Avenue

On Monday, July 16, road repairs to the south side of Boyden Avenue between Elmwood Avenue and Springfield Avenue will take place for approximately one week pending weather conditions. There will be access to the pool parking lot for pool members and NJ Transit employees. Signage and police officers will be present to direct traffic.