SUMMIT, NJ - In separate letters to Summit High School parents sent on December 10, Summit High School Principal Stacy Grimaldi and Superintendent of Schools June Chang have notified the community that new images, described by Chang as "hateful writing and symbols" and Grimaldi as "hateful symbols and words" were found December 10 in bathrooms on the Kent Place Boulevard campus.
Despite stating that she and her senior team have "in clear and strong terms, delivered the message to our students that hate will not be tolerated at Summit High School," Grimaldi wrote that "additional hateful symbols and words were found in bathroom stalls this afternoon."
Since the initial images were discovered at the high school on November 30 -- which followed a previous incident at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School prior to the Thanksgiving weekend -- Grimaldi notes there has been a "positive response of an overwhelming majority of our students" and the school has made efforts to better monitor bathroom use. Moving forward, the Principal indicates that "we continue to investigate all of these incidents and are currently discussing options for better controlling bathroom traffic in the school."
When asked to comment on the status of the investigation into the now three incidents, Summit Police Chief Robert Weck, In a statement to TAPinto Summit, said, "The Summit Police Department is involved in an ongoing investigation, so I am unable to comment on the specifics of it at this time, Our Detective and Juvenile Bureau personnel are working closely with school administrations and staffs at both the middle school and high school. We will be part of a continuing community conversation on tolerance and inclusion, and do our part to ensure that this abhorrent behavior will not continue.”
Chang wrote, "As we have stated before, the Board and I remain very clear; acts of hate will not be tolerated in the Summit Public Schools. Working to prevent further acts of hate like these is an ongoing effort. As part of our ongoing consultation with local authorities, it has been determined that it is in the best interest of the investigations to refrain from broadly communicating about additional incidents should they occur. We will continue to respond immediately to any potential further reports, and work closely with the police. We will also remain committed to the planned district-wide response and the programming that was outlined in the letters sent by each principal today."
Grimaldi pointed out that , "We also know that certain events afford us the opportunity to engage our students in further discussion through developmentally appropriate activities." She also stated, "We take pride in the culture of respect and celebration of diversity we consistently work to build in our school community. At Summit High School, we take a proactive approach to educate our students in taking pride in their individuality while valuing the diversity in one another." Grimaldi went on to highlight what she termed as "ongoing efforts in that regard," citing among them:
- Holocaust education in Grades 9 and 11 History classes.
- A 'Holocaust and Genocide Studies' elective course offering.
- Literature analysis in English curricula that includes "various topics that focus on understanding and empathizing with how others see the world similarly or differently than we do."
- Grade-level assemblies "that raise awareness of discrimination, racism, stereotypes, intolerance, and oppression for all races, ages, sexual orientation, gender, and religions."
- Staff training in Restorative Practices.
- Grade-level and school-wide diversity celebrations.
- The 'Peer Leadership Program'
She went on to inform parents that, on Thursday, December 13, "Summit High School students and staff will join with others across the district to recognize a 'Day of Unity and Kindness'. During the first time slot class, students and teachers will engage in discussions and restorative circles regarding how we as a school can promote kindness and acceptance for all. Students will be asked to generate ideas that will be displayed in the main lobby of the high school. We will use the ideas generated from the students to continue the discussion in the coming days, weeks, and months. Throughout the day teachers will continue these conversations with their students. In addition, during the lunch block, the Counseling Department will be offering a program to all students in the library."
Similar letters were also e-mailed to parents of Summit's five elementary schools, two primary centers and Lawton C. Johnson by each school's principal.