SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The following email was sent from South Orange Middle School (SOMS) Principal Lynn Irby on Friday, Dec. 9, as an additional update to the community regarding the school's reaction after a drawing of a swastika was found in one of the school bathrooms. (Read Irby's previous email from Dec. 1 about the same incident here.)

Dear SOMS Community,

Last week a letter went home to parents indicating the steps that SOMS would take to address the recent anti-Semitic incident. This included conversations in the classroom, particularly in the Social Studies classes. We provided our teachers with talking points that addressed the issue of tolerance as a whole.  Some teachers spoke specifically to the issue while others had a broader approach. 

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On Friday December 2, during the WIN period the entire 6th grade team took the time to further discuss the issue of respect in the school. This was insightful as many students voiced their concerns and generated ideas for future activities.

At the same time Rabbi Gewirtz, a SOMS parent, had previously been invited to speak with two 7th grade teams on Judaism. He too addressed the specific incident.

From these conversations it became evident that we needed additional work and support to help combat not only this specific incident but racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and anti-bullying as a whole.

On Wednesday December 7th, a meeting was held at the school with a group of local rabbis, administration, faculty/staff and a parent to strategize and generate ideas for developing a comprehensive plan of action. The meeting was honest, insightful, and productive. 

Immediate Response

Principal’s Town Hall Meetings with Students

  • Grade 6 Friday December 9th during WIN 8th period
  • Grade 7 & 8 Monday December 12th period 8

Goal: Recap of the particular bias incident providing details of the language used, the ongoing investigation, and the affect it had on students, families, the school and the community.

Long-Term Initiatives

  • Student Learning (held during Advisory Classes)
  • Anti-bias/Anti-bullying training (staff/students)
  • No Place for Hate Committee (ADL)

Throughout our process we are committing to work with stakeholders, and to confer with advisors, who have specific experience and expertise in addressing bias issues. We greatly appreciate your support in this. 

Respectfully,

Lynn A. Irby