Parents received an email Thursday afternoon from Scarsdale High School Principal Kenneth Bonamo regarding a piece of swastika graffiti found in a bathroom stall, etched into a toilet paper dispenser Sept. 12.
“Because of the private location of where this was found, it will be nearly impossible to identify the individual(s) responsible for this action; it would be unfair to cast blame widely on the school community, as we know that most of us abhor and condemn acts of hatred,” his email read. “Yet the implications are serious enough that I felt obligated to inform you of this discovery, not to give attention to those who acted inappropriately, but to let them know that their actions have no place in our school community.”
Bonamo, who declined to comment further to the Inquirer, also wrote that if one member of the community feels unwelcome or distressed by this incident, that is one person too many.
“Hate speech and scare tactics will not be tolerated and do not represent what we stand for,” Bonamo wrote. “I ask each of you today to recommit to the belief that all of us deserve the opportunity to participate fully in our school community and our society at large and to join together in denouncing acts of hatred and bigotry.”
The Scarsdale Police Department was not called to investigate the matter.
Captain Edward Murphy said these incidents generally involve police to follow up with an investigation with the Westchester County district attorney’s office.
The DA has a unit to specifically investigate hate crimes with local law enforcement, but a representative was not available to speak at press time.
In the event an individual is found responsible for the crime, Murphy said officials would then decide how to move forward.
“Based on the investigation results, that’s how we’d proceed with it,” he said. “We take these things very seriously. We involve the DA’s office and any other outside help we can use.”
Murphy said these types of incidents are extremely uncommon.
The last reported instance at the high school was Sept. 17, 2017. At the platform tennis courts police found “K.K.K.,” a smiley face and a large drawing of a penis spray painted on one of the two courts.
Police investigated that incident and concluded it was an act of vandalism and mischief by a group of juveniles.
Reacting to the recent swastika, Rabbi Jonathan Blake of Westchester Reform Temple, who could not be reached for further comment, sent an email to the community today.
“All of us commend Scarsdale High School’s leadership for their swift condemnation of this act of Anti-Semitism, hatred and intolerance,” Blake wrote. “In the year 2019, no person, young or old, in our community, or anywhere, should be subjected to the language or symbols that the Nazi regime used in the service of violence, terror and mass murder.”
Blake wrote he spoke with Bonamo to offer a partnership in responding to the incident, which was received. “It is important for our community to know that our institutions stand shoulder-to-shoulder at this time,” Blake wrote.
Blake shared that as a teenager he and his family found swastikas painted all over their garage door when they returned from a vacation. He said the school district, synagogue and the Anti-Defamation League worked together to identify the preparators, provide sensitivity training in the school and to discipline the offenders.
“We all share the hope that similarly swift and effective measures will be taken in Scarsdale around this incident, and we stand at the ready to provide support in this shared effort,” Blake wrote.