Dear Port Washington Community,
On behalf of the Board of Education and District Administration, we are writing as a follow-up to the recent incident involving several high school students. The intent of this letter is to do our best to address the events directly, to ensure that the over 6,000 students and staff who attend our schools and cultural and athletic events outside of school feel safe everyday and continue to enjoy all of the opportunities that our schools and Port Washington have to offer. State and federal law prohibit us from sharing information regarding the specific facts and discipline of individual students. Due to limitations in what we are legally able to share, there is information circulating in the community that is not accurate. We have tried to update the community to the best of our ability. While we recognize that it may never seem like enough, we will continue to be as transparent as possible.
We are aware of a photograph circulating on social media that portrays students in an antisemitic pose. We are fully aware of how disturbing this image is and the anxiety it brings to our community, particularly given the recent terrorist attacks in Israel and the resultant war. This image and any and all rumors or information that has circulated since the beginning of this investigation have been and continue to be thoroughly investigated by Dr. Hynes, high school principal Dr. Behr, and local law enforcement. The Board of Education and District Administration prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff. This matter is being taken with the utmost of seriousness, and all responsible parties are being disciplined in accordance with applicable state law. We will continue to work with local law enforcement and district security personnel to ensure the safety of all students and staff.
Over the last couple of weeks we have taken the following steps in response to this incident:
- Worked with the Port Washington Police Department, which has determined there is no threat posed by the students.
- Investigated and continues to investigate all threats and rumors that are circulating or brought to our attention.
- Partnered with the local rabbis and cantors as well as the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County to identify meaningful educational steps that can be taken within our schools and faith centers.
- Provided and continue to provide counseling services to our students.
- Spoken with concerned community members individually to clarify the facts and listened to steps needed for moving forward.
We recognize that our efforts cannot stop when this investigation ends and consequences are delivered. We are committed to making a more concerted effort to continue to educate our students in a manner that will create a connection and build a stronger understanding that hate and acts that resemble hate have no place in our schools or our community. Our commitment to move forward begins with the following steps:
- Continue dialogue with our local clergy for programming and conversations in the area to create avenues to develop and celebrate moral developments in our students.
- Assess the delivery and effectiveness of our NYS required Holocaust education districtwide.
- Work in partnership with the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County to significantly expand education and conversations about antisemitism for elementary through high school students. We are actively developing these programs and will update the community as they are finalized.
- Continue and expand Holocaust education and remembrance programming including personal visits with Holocaust survivors within the Weber Middle School curriculum.
- Roll out anti-bias education led by the Anti-Defamation League that will provide all 4th and 5th grade students with a broad understanding of bias language and how to recognize it and how to help stop its use. This is co-sponsored by the Ed Foundation and the District.
- Continue to educate our students, from grades PreK-12 on digital citizenship and the effects of one’s digital footprint.
- Continue to engage parents in our community with conversations, updates, and learning opportunities.
- Continue to seek additional partnerships and opportunities for combating antisemitism, which we state unequivocally has no place in our schools or our community.
We will continue to enhance these efforts not because of an incident but because it is a necessary component of our Vision, Mission and Portrait of a Graduate. The road ahead still has a lot of work and a lot of healing. We are only strong and able to make change if we work in support and not in opposition of one another. Please join us on the field of Schreiber High School on Wednesday, October 18th at 3:15 p.m. to walk together for Unity Day, to begin to forge this path forward and continue to build a stronger understanding that hate and acts of hate have no place here in Port Washington.
Adam Smith, President of PWUFSD Board of Education
On behalf of the PWUFSD Board of Education
Superintendent of Schools