Anti-Defamation League pays visit to PV


Curstine Guevarra

According to Dr. Barry Bachenheimer, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, early feedback to the Virtual Days on Tuesday and Wednesday has been mostly positive.

Jamie Ryu, Staff Writer

The Anti-Defamation League met with Mr. Erik Gundersen, Pascack Valley Regional District’s Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Tom DeMaio, the principal of Pascack Valley High School, and Dr. Barry Bachenheimer, the district’s Director of Curriculum, on Thursday to discuss how the school could address bias inside the school.

While many people are under the impression that the Anti-Defamation League is primarily an anti-semitism organization, they specialize in combatting hate of all kinds.

“They deal with not only religious bias but racial bias and racial issues,” Gundersen said, “as well as white supremacy.”

“It was interesting to hear the efforts of the Anti-Defamation League regarding bias against homosexual individuals and transgender individuals,” Gundersen added.

Gundersen, DeMaio, and Bachenheimer met with Joshua Cohen, the director of the ADL’s New Jersey regional office, at 8:30 a.m. in DeMaio’s conference room. The meeting lasted around two hours.

They started by giving Cohen a tour of the school.

“He seemed impressed by what we currently do in the school district,” Gundersen said, “but then we spent of a lot of the time talking about the incidents that have taken place throughout the school year.”

After the tour, they focused on how to address the way that minority groups feel as well as teaching tolerance and acceptance in the community.

“I think we’re going to have a very good working relationship together,” Gundersen said.

Cohen and Gundersen plan to meet again next week to go over educational components that they can bring into the school district. Cohen will be talking with educational specialists within the ADL before their next meeting. They may meet again the following week, according to Gundersen.

Gundersen said that they’re also going to Bergen Community College next week to look at their Center for Tolerance and learn what they do.

“Everything from conflict resolution to educational program to student organizations” will be reviewed during the Bergen visit, Gundersen said.

The district has also reached out to the NAACP and, according to Gundersen, they will be meeting in the near future.

The ADL has a program called “No Place for Hate”, where if a school fulfills certain criteria you will be branded a “no place for hate school.” It’s meant to be a rallying point for the school.

“I’m not sure if we’re going to necessarily go with this program,” Gundersen said. “It’s just something we talked about.”

Cohen also mentioned programs that focused on educating teachers and administrators about bias and what to do about biased behavior as well as a peer leaders program that focused on conflict resolution and bias.

“First, we need to gather some data from our school community,” Gundersen said. “That may be through a survey that we issue before the end of the school year.”

After meeting with different organizations, Gundersen will be releasing information to the student body, as well as the faculty and administration, about short term and long term solutions. Plans will be revealed before the end of the school year.

“We’re going to form decisions by including representatives from the student body, specifically students who are in the various minority groups that have felt strongly about some of the events that have taken place, to get their perspectives on this as well,” Gundersen said.