A student walkout and mandatory assembly were among the topics discussed at an open meeting for students held by Pascack Valley’s Student Council in the lecture hall the morning of Thursday, Nov. 15 to discuss what actions should be taken regarding the recent anti-Semitic incidents in the school.
PV Principal Tom DeMaio sent out an email to all PV students inviting them to attend this week’s Student Council meeting. The meeting started at 7:20 a.m. and extended into the first period of the day.
The administration is looking to implement both a long-term and short-term procedure. Something long term, according to DeMaio, would allow the administration more time to effectively handle the situation. Something short term, however, would show that PV will not tolerate any type of hate speech, DeMaio said.
“Our voices need to be a lot stronger and louder than those who feel that that message is an appropriate message,” DeMaio said.
Students suggested ideas such as a walkout, PSA videos, and bringing in speakers to the school.
“We need to make a bold move now. I think the best way to do something like that is a walkout against hateful messages like we did for the Parkland shooting,” Arianna Quevedo, the PV senior class liaison, said. “I know if we do something like this now, we’ll look back on it as something that wasn’t just brushed under the table and we actually took action and did something against it.”
However, concern was expressed by multiple students that a walkout could become too political, so the idea then adapted into having students walk to the track and hold hands as an act of unity.
Ms. Diana McKenna, a PV English teacher, and adviser of the Human Rights League, proposed to have students participate in a unifying act, similar to what students at Baraboo High School did to combat the recent anti-Semitic issue at their school.
Other students suggested for PSA videos to be shown during either gym or English classes since all students are required to take these courses. The concern with this solution is that students might click out of the video or simply not pay attention to it if played during class.
“The kid who drew a swastika knows what it is and they just won’t care about our opinions or PSA’s,” PV senior Kevin Conrad said.
PV senior Matt Beyer said that “they don’t understand the history.” He believes that students need to fully understand the history to be able to understand why this hate speech is wrong.
An ex-white supremacist, a Holocaust survivor, or a police officer were options for the types of guest speakers students think should be brought to PV to talk about hate speech to all students.
PV senior Zachary Zeller said that he believes a mandatory assembly during English and gym class, which all students have, would be the best option so that every student in the school will receive the message.
The Smoke Signal first broke the news of the swastikas on Nov. 5 and the administration since then has been looking for ways to properly handle the situation.
DeMaio emphasized how important it is to immediately report any incidents seen by a student or administrator so that it is easier more possible to be able to narrow down who the offender is. DeMaio stated how alarmed he was to find out from a Smoke Signal reporter that the baseball plaques have contained hateful etchings for awhile with no prior reports.
Administrators have been meeting with individuals throughout the community, religious leaders from all faiths, the Anti-Defamation League, the Executive Council, representatives from the School Safety Team, and the Human Rights League.
According to DeMaio, meeting with many different resources will help and continue to educate everybody in the building to figure out the best way to combat this issue in a unified way.
“The problems were caused by students, so they should be solved by students,” Executive Council Vice President Sean Oh said.