GEORGETOWN — Police Chief Donald Cudmore and Superintendent of Schools Carol Jacobs report that the Town of Georgetown responded swiftly to a report of a swastika found on the Georgetown Middle High School football field late last week.
“The discovery of a swastika on school grounds, regardless of the intent or ignorance behind it, is deeply disturbing and is indicative of a need for us to reflect, as a school community, on how we approach values and diversity,” Superintendent Jacobs said. “As a result, we have worked with the police, community leaders and religious clergy to come up with a plan of action.”
On Thursday, April 28, a faculty member saw a group of students standing alongside the football field looking at drawings that had been made in the field by others dragging their feet along the rubber dirt particles on the artificial grass. The drawings on the grass were the word “Hell,” a penis and a swastika.
A school administrative investigation quickly determined who was allegedly responsible for the drawings. A male high school freshman allegedly drew the word “Hell” and two middle school boys were responsible for the other two drawings. All three students were punished for their actions.
The Georgetown Police Department was also notified and called in to investigate the swastika case.
A police investigator questioned the 13-year-old eighth grade boy who drew the swastika and talked to the suspect’s parents. The police investigation determined that the offender had not been in trouble in the past and that, while he knew what he was doing was wrong, he did not fully grasp the depth of what he had done and the underlying meaning of a swastika.
As a result of their investigation, Georgetown Police are in the process of consulting with a local synagogue and will seek a restorative justice option that may include a mix of community service and educational components with the Jewish community.
“This incident is a clear-cut case for the restorative justice principle, which seeks to include the offender and the community members who have been wronged in formulating a criminal justice solution,” Chief Cudmore said. “We believe, given the offender’s age, lack of criminal history, and clear lack of understanding of the hurtful and hateful meaning behind a swastika, that this is the appropriate reaction as a law enforcement agency. However, we must do more as a community to take hateful symbols, such as the swastika, out of the lexicon.”
Beginning of a Dialog
Rather than these investigative actions representing the end of the situation, the Georgetown Public Schools and Georgetown Police Department are seeking to create a dialog from this incident to help ensure that it does not repeat itself in the future.
On Thursday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m., in the GMHS Auditorium, members of the Georgetown and Merrimack Valley clergy community will host a public forum with police, school officials, and town leaders. All school parents, students and members of the community are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Additionally, May is Jewish American History Month in the U.S., and it is Diversity Month at Georgetown Middle School. The focus of the advisory program will be diversity and acceptance during May. Additionally, some of the clubs at GMHS, such the Civil Rights Club in the high school and the Diversity Club in the middle school, will be researching speakers and groups that can part of a diversity assembly in the fall.
“This is the beginning of a dialog,” Superintendent Jacobs said. “Rather than end with the punishment of the offenders and investigation into a single action, we want to root out the causes of confusion, hatred and discrimination that plague every society. Together, we can create a more harmonious community for our students.”