INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – The writing on the wall at Pike High School Friday showed a Nazi symbol left in a bathroom for the second day in a row.
Eyewitness News showed the photo to Lindsay Mintz, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Indianapolis.
She described her reaction. “It’s a flood of emotions. It’s frustration, it’s anger, it’s empathy it’s certainly not complacency. And unfortunately not surprise.”
Thursday it was several swastikas drawn with markers on a bathroom wall and countertop. Those photos sent to 13 investigates. Then Friday, another swastika and this time these words: “I’ll never go away” with a smiley face.
A recent Pike graduate is very concerned.
“Somebody needs to be taught a lesson,” he said. “Whether it’s the right or wrong thing to do. Or just plain and simple hey, this is not tolerated at our school.”
The school district issued a statement on its website Friday. It says it has its own police department investigating and a detective with IMPD is looking into it too.
This week offensive graffiti was discovered at Pike High School on two occasions. We are extremely concerned about this behavior and are treating it with all of the seriousness it warrants. In each case, the graffiti was removed immediately, police were engaged, and thorough investigations were launched by our Pike Police and Detective Roth from the IMPD.
Authorities have determined that the incidents may rise to the level of criminal mischief; however, they do not believe they were hate crimes and there is no evidence that they were targeted. We have reason to believe that they were perpetrated by one or two students who may be seeking attention, and that today’s incident was most likely the result of a copycat.
We cannot state strongly enough that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Regardless of the motive, these deplorable actions are contrary to the values, beliefs, and behaviors of the overwhelming majority of our students at Pike High School. They should in no way be attributed to, or viewed as a reflection upon our students, our schools, or the beautifully diverse community we serve.
We expect everyone associated with our school community to treat others with dignity and respect at all times. As educators, it is important that we view this as a teachable moment. As such, we will continue to work to educate our students about the history and horror associated with this symbol. Additionally, we will work with the Jewish Community Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Jewish Community Relations Council to provide additional opportunities for our students to learn about understanding differences, cultural sensitivity, and collective accountability. In the meantime, it is imperative that any reporting regarding instances such as these includes this vital context as well.
The district says it’s very concerned.
“Authorities have determined that the incidents may rise to the level of criminal mischief; however, they do not believe they were hate crimes and there is no evidence that they were targeted. We have reason to believe that they were perpetrated by one or two students who may be seeking attention, and that today’s incident was most likely a copycat.”
But the Jewish Community Relations Council says the incidents cannot be discounted.
“Nearly one third of all Jewish youth under the age of 17 had experienced anti-Semitism in the last year,” says the Council’s Lindsey Mintz. She cited a recent Indianapolis survey. Part of a national uptick in anti-Semitism including swastikas displays.
The Jewish Community Relations Council is already talking with Pike Schools about programs to educate young people on words leading to hurtful actions, meeting holocaust survivors, erasing ignorance.
“Finding the humanity in each other by really getting to know each other,” says Mintz.
She says “we have programs where we have trained Jewish teenagers to come give presentations in high school classrooms about what it’s like to be Jewish. So it’s a peer to peer education program in which teens are talking to teens about what it’s like: have you experienced anti-Semitism? Do you have a family that was lost in the holocaust?”
“We conduct an excellent program of the ADL, (Anti-Defamation League) called words to action which, depending on the audience, small workshops we’re talking about how words lead to actions,” said Mintz. “You know the phrase the holocaust did not begin with the final solution. It began with words.”
Mintz says “we can combat hate speech with good speech. But everybody has a responsibility to speak out. So the WORDS TO ACTION program talks about everybody’s role. Not just if you’re the one who’s been targeted but all of the bystanders – you can become up-standers, and stand up and be an ally.”
The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council is a sponsor of a symposium at Indianapolis Central Library Wednesday, October 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Students can attend for free. Otherwise there is a registration fee and space is limited. For more information, visit their website here.