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Letter: A “sad day” as images of swastikas appear again on school property

Opinion / Letters August 31, 2021

Members of NIOT Northport reached out to district officials after images of swastikas were found on playground equipment at Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

Editor’s note: The following letter, sent to Northport-East Northport school district officials on the evening of August 30, was responded to by Superintendent Robert Banzer shortly after it was received. The images of swastikas were removed by district officials the following morning. The full story can be found here.

Dear Principal Larkin, Superintendent Banzer and Board of Education members,

We are the founders of Not In Our Town (NIOT) Northport, a local chapter of the national anti-hate and anti-bullying organization. We formed last summer after swastikas and other graphic images were spray-painted on Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Today is a very sad day that we find ourselves in the same situation, as similar images have now been etched on the playground at Ocean Avenue. This comes the day before the school is set to host its “welcome back” fair for students. The chance that any one of the children – and especially the Jewish children – in our community could potentially be exposed to this symbol of pure hatred is simply unacceptable.

We are sick of hearing “it’s just kids” committing these acts. These are our kids and if it’s them drawing swastikas, we have failed them. If our children do not know how hateful and hurtful the image of a swastika is, again, we have failed them.

There is clearly hate and bigotry in our community. We must ask: what has this district done in the year since the Dickinson incident, other than just paint over the symbols and words of hate? What actions has this district taken to show unequivocally that this will not be tolerated? What programs have been implemented to address these issues? Where is the outrage, the action? We must ask you, again: please take a stand with us against this hatred.

The lines of communication are open. We have previously organized and are ready, willing and able to organize an anti-hate walk, speech, assembly, or activity, in line with NIOT’s Not In Our School program, or to meet in-person or over Zoom. We are here to help and implore you to take immediate and unequivocal action on this urgent matter in our community. As a first step, we request this symbol be removed or covered before students and their families arrive at the school tomorrow morning, as it was still present and visible at 7pm tonight.

We look forward to hearing from you.

NIOT Northport Founding Members

Laura Brandies
Erin Brennan
Joanne Kountourakis
Lauren Pluchino
Chrissy Ruggeri
Meghan Dolan Saporita
Katie Vaccaro
Molly Feeney Wood