Superintendent Kathleen Bodie
869 Massachusetts Ave.
Arlington, MA 02474
For Immediate Release
Monday, Oct. 7, 2019
Media Contact: Benjamin Paulin
A Statement from Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Kathleen Bodie and Principal Brian Meringer
ARLINGTON — The following is an update from Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Kathleen Bodie and Ottoson Middle School Principal Brian Meringer on the anti-Semitic graffiti and meme that was found in a bathroom at the middle school on Friday, Oct. 4.
Please note, the district will not be releasing information about the students that have been found responsible and the consequences they will be facing.
“Parents were notified by Ottoson school administrators on Friday, Oct. 4, along with Arlington Police and the Arlington Human Rights Commission, about anti-Semitic graffiti found in a bathroom at the Ottoson Middle School.
In response to the graffiti, several steps have been taken to speak to students about the incident and the ramifications that hate speech can have.
On Monday morning, seventh grade students met in the gym during their ASPIRE class and were told about Friday’s events. School leadership emphasized to the seventh grade that hate speech is not tolerated at the Arlington Public Schools or elsewhere.
It was also emphasized to students that every member of our school community has a right to be safe from derogatory remarks about race, religion and/or sexual preference and gender identity. Eighth grade students will be meeting with administrators on Tuesday, Oct. 8, regarding the incident and will receive the same information.
The school will be showing videos of how groups have responded to hate speech later in the week.
We want to stress that middle school students make mistakes. Our obligation is to help them learn from this incident. However, middle school educators also worry about future incidents. It is not uncommon for middle school students to copycat actions that warrant a response in order to get attention.
Nationally, hate crimes are on the rise and students often mirror what they see and hear outside of school. We have attached a report from the Anti-Defamation League that speaks to the increase of hate crimes. We encourage parents to have a conversation with their children about the impact of hate speech of any kind.
Finally, we will continue to strive to be a more inclusive and accepting school community.
Last year, Ottoson School administrators invited Dr. Carlos Hoyt to talk to eighth grade students about the use of the ‘n-word’ before reading To Kill a Mockingbird. The school also hosted a ‘No Place for Hate’ soccer clinic run by the Chelsea Football Club, which combined soccer with classroom sessions on the dangers of anti-Semitism. A group of middle school students were empowered to raise money to paint a gender-neutral bathroom with the hope of preventing graffiti. This summer, school and district officials met with the Arlington Police and the Human Rights Commission to document procedures to respond to hate speech and bias.
At the school and district level, we are continuing our professional development on cultural competency, and examining our curriculum for opportunities to teach our students about inclusive behavior.
We look toward moving forward from this incident through teaching, tolerance and understanding.”