SUMMIT, NJ — A swastika was found in the sixth floor girls’ lavatory at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School, according to Superintendent June Chang, the sixth such incident of anti-Semitic and other graffiti in the district in the nearly five months.
“I’m sad that I have to report this,” Chang said during his monthly remarks at the April 11 Summit Board of Education meeting.
Chang said the graffiti had been removed and that the district would continue to provide educational programming about hate speech. He added that parents should have dialogues with their children regarding the incidents.
The first symbols were found in November 2018 — immediately before Thanksgiving break — on a bathroom wall at the middle school.
At that time, Chang vowed that “acts of hate of any kind in the Summit Public Schools will not be tolerated” in an email sent to parents that’s now available on the district’s website.
Days after the swastikas were found on the walls of the middle school, Summit High School Principal Stacy Grimaldi notified students and parents on Nov. 30 that the images also were found carved into the stalls in a boys’ bathroom at the school’s Kent Place Boulevard campus.
The third incident occurred in December, with Chang and Grimaldi sending separate letters to high school parents and the community that new images, described by Chang as “hateful writing and symbols” and Grimaldi as “hateful symbols and words” were found again in bathrooms on the high school campus. They gave no further descriptions of the images.
Chang also revealed at the January BOE meeting that two additional swastikas had been found at the middle school, one on the back of a chair in a classroom and the other on a wall in another classroom.
“They were small,” BOE President Deb McCann said at the meeting, “About an inch long.”
Chang added that he did not know how long they had been there and that the district is “still in the process of training” on how to hold effective discussions on race and tolerance, and he is working on partnerships with outside agencies to facilitate this.
When the first incident was reported, Chang said that the local Police Department was notified and that a “police and schoolwide investigation is ongoing.”
To date, it has not been publicly disclosed whether any alleged or known perpetrators have been identified or disciplined, and there has been no update on the police investigation.
In other BOE business at the April 11 meeting, Operations Committee Chairman Chris Bonner said letters have gone out to the more than 180 families who had paid for full-day kindergarten, informing them they will receive a refund as the district last month approved a free, universal, full-day program to begin in September.
The district will return a total of $91,095 in tuition, according to Bonner.
Registration for the new kindergarten program opened the day after the budget was approved in a 3-1 vote at the March 25 Board of School Estimate meeting.
The $66 million budget includes $1.5 million allotted to expand the current free, half-day program and a tuition-based full-day program chosen by lottery into a free, full-day program.