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Update on Anti-Semitism Efforts
Posted 10/7/20

Dear San Rafael City Schools Community,

I want to provide an update about the recent anti-Semitism activity, as well as the efforts to provide more awareness and training, that is occurring in our greater community.  

As you are likely aware, there has been an increase in anti-Semitic activity in Marin county and the nation in recent months. It has been reported by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that “the total number of antisemitic incidents in 2019 increased 12 percent over the previous year, with a disturbing 56 percent increase in assaults.” Recent anti-Semitic incidents in schools in Marin have also been on the rise, such as within the Redwood High School community where a series of social media posts called for students to target Jewish people.

The education community in Marin has come out strongly in opposition to anti-Semtism. The Tamalpais Union High School District Superintendent, as well as district leaders in San Rafael, Novato and the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE), jointly wrote a Marin Voice article. Additionally, a series of educational events were organized and hosted by MCOE; the first of which, “Confronting Online Semitism,” was held last week and had over 500 participants. You can view a recording hereFuture training opportunities to deepen our understanding on confronting antisemitism and resources can be found here. The superintendents in Marin continue to meet and discuss ways we can help educate our students and the public, and we will continue to work on providing speakers, such as Holocast survivors, to share their stories with our students. MCOE is also coordinating work on an Ethnic Studies curriculum in the county; teachers from all districts are working together to plan this curriculum.

We will continue our outreach and education in SRCS alongside our neighboring districts, and invite your input and suggestions for the future. We value all of our Jewish students and families, along with all other religions, races and ethnicities. We take a strong stand against not only anti-Semtism, but against all forms of hate and racism. I have included a letter below from the Principal of Redwood High School, David Sondheim, as he eloquently wrote about why we are concerned and what is being done to combat anti-Semitism.

Please note that we will be sending this message to our families in English and Spanish today. 

Sincerely,

Jim Hogeboom
Superintendent

Dear Redwood School Community:

I am writing to update our school community on the deeply disturbing antisemitic social media posts that appeared earlier this month, and to share with you the steps that we are taking to investigate the situation.

As you may know, a series of antisemitic social media posts on Instagram called for students to organize against Jewish people and to join in the creation of a list of Jewish students at the school. Additionally, an image of a person holding a bullet and wearing a helmet with a swastika was shared. These reprehensible messages were, understandably, deeply alarming to many members of our school community. As a Jewish person, I know how seriously this evokes the hatred and fear of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Hateful, hurtful comments and actions, whether targeting an individual’s religion, race, gender or any other expression or characteristic of their existence are unacceptable. Our District is working with law enforcement, the Anti Defamation League (ADL), the Marin County Office of Education and spiritual leaders from Congregation Rodef Sholom and Congregation Kol Shofar to address this issue; we are committed to ensuring that justice is served. We are immensely grateful to Rabbi Stacy Friedman. Her considerable wisdom, guidance and support continue to be invaluable as we navigate this situation.

While we can’t control what someone does on social media platforms, we can educate our students about antisemitism, the history of oppression of and genocide committed against Jewish people and about the harm hate-based ideologies cause us as individuals and our collective society. To that end, we are partnering with the ADL, to implement a series of lessons in our schools that combat bias and hate, specifically how to address antisemitic and racist incidents in our community.

Student Voices – A Measure of Comfort

I want our families to know that this social media activity prompted many students to contact school administration, our district office, law enforcement and Instagram directly, asking for immediate action to have the posts removed and investigated. Our students’ proactive steps to shut down antisemitic behavior are positive indications that the shared efforts between school and home to teach students to stand up and speak out when they see injustices are working.

Engaging Law Enforcement - School and District Action

Please be assured that we are working unrelentingly and closely with law enforcement to investigate this situation, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to conduct a full, forensic IT investigation. Some people have expressed that they feel confident they know the identity of the perpetrator, and they are asking for swift action regarding that particular student. Like many of you who have communicated with me, I want to see proper disciplinary action taken. Our urgency and frustration are justified given the nature of the messages. Please know, however, that action may not be taken based on rumor or speculation. Clearly linking a person to a social media account can be very difficult and while many people feel strongly that they know who is behind these acts, we have an obligation to meet legal standards when disciplining students. Please be assured that law enforcement continues its investigation and if their work determines it was one of our students, we will not hesitate to levy the most severe disciplinary consequences. If you have information that directly links these actions to a particular individual or individuals, please contact us by emailing me, calling our Tip Line at 415-945-3693 or contacting Central Marin Police.

A Community United to Educate and Inform

The internet allows hate speech to move rapidly and trample the boundaries that we seek to create for our homes, schools, and communities, so we must pull together to reaffirm our values and our shared commitment to recognize and call out and stamp out hate. To continue the conversation about what we as a community can do to put an end to antisemitism, we are partnering with the county office of education, ADL, the District Attorney’s office, Marin Jewish faith leaders and tech company representatives to hold a countywide facilitated conversation tomorrow, Wednesday, September 30, from 5:00-6:30 pm. The informational flyer is attached to this email.

I will keep you informed as our investigation continues, and until it is completed, I thank you for addressing your concerns and questions to me at dsondheim@tamdistrict.org or 415-945-3620.

Respectfully,

David Sondheim