SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The following email was sent from South Orange Middle School Principal Lynn Irby on Thursday, Dec. 1, after a drawing of a swastika was found in one of the school bathrooms.

To Our South Orange Middle School Community:

We are committed to ensuring that our school is a safe environment for each and every student and staff member, and to valuing and honoring our commonalities and our differences.

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Sadly, we recently discovered a swastika drawn in a stall in one of our student restrooms. We are deeply concerned that one or more of our students would find this offensive, insensitive and divisive symbol to be funny or acceptable. 

As soon as we discovered it, our maintenance team immediately removed the offensive drawing and restored the restroom facility to its original condition. We also began an investigation, but have not yet identified who defaced the bathroom.  Please know that though we have not identified the students involved, we are already taking steps to address what happened.

We see this as an important teachable moment, which demonstrates our need to reinforce tolerance in our community, and are taking the following actions:

  • In every Social Studies class today [Dec. 1], teachers facilitated discussions to help students understand their civic – and community – responsibility to welcome each other; to support the goals that we all have for education, personal growth, and warm relationships; and to discuss how we can address these issues in our own school environment.
  • We are reminding our students, staff, faculty and families that we are an inclusive educational community and have zero tolerance for racially, ethnically or other types of insensitive behaviors.
  • We are reminding students that bias incidents are a violation of the Code of Conduct and are subject to disciplinary action according to the SOMSD Discipline Policy.
  • We will be using our advisory period for continuing conversations about tolerance and individual responsibility for fostering unity in our school. 

We ask for the partnership and support of our parents and guardians in talking with your children about the important role each of us has in making sure our school is a safe environment, where each student feels respected and included. These two links to resources have been shared with staff, and you may find them useful tools for conversations at home:

We thank you for your support or our shared objective of creating a safe and welcoming educational environment for our students.

Lynn Irby