Again, more education

Again, more education

The Journal News, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper serving Westchester, Rockland
and Putnam Counties in New York.
(Original publication: May 4, 2004)
It is difficult to understand the second, most recent “hate crime” act
in the Pearl River School District.

A swastika, sexually explicit phrases and racist graffiti were drawn
on chalkboard at the Middle School, just a month after hate symbols
were discovered on a wall at the high school.

While these deplorable, deeply regrettable and awfully ignorant
moments have not been legally termed hate crimes under newer state
legislation, that is what they are, bias-based.

The hope is that the incidents are aberrations, that there will not be
any more of this in the Pearl River district, in any other school in
Rockland, in store bathrooms and at bus stops, etc.

What lesson do we offer Iraq and the rest of the world when we do not
address our own prejudices?

For decades at least, drawing swastikas and writing racist or
ethnic-disparaging comment has been the work of children and adults
who should know better, who should know the history of horror in the

Horror such as the Holocaust; horror such as the lynchings of blacks;
horror such as the torture and mass executions in Cambodia, of the
Armenians, in the Crusades and in all too many paces in the
present-day world.

While education cannot always reform the ignorant who does not want to
know and understand history, it is vital that we as adults, as
parents, as citizens, as neighbors and as teachers and writers and
others do the utmost to educate the young and the ignorant.

The bad moments in world and U.S. history must be graphically
presented, with a full balance that seeks to show reform. In Rockland,
the great diversity that is this county, and which has been its
history since the beginning, must be discussed in the schools and in
the homes.

There is much to discuss in this county. Within the past few months, a
menorah in a Pearl River park was overturned, a Christian religious
statue in Monsey was toppled and a Congers neighborhood was terrorized
with hate literature and a cross burning.

This is not the Rockland we wish.

Following the latest incident in the Pearl River Schools, the district
sent parents and staff a letter on the same day that a Holocaust
survivor spoke to 10th-graders in response to swastikas scrawled on a
corridor wall outside the high school classroom of two Jewish teachers
in mid-March.

The most recent hate crime was back in April, but district spokesman
Sandy Cokeley Pedersen said it wanted “to give time for the
investigation, understanding that once this becomes public knowledge,
it drastically diminishes the chance of getting any kind of admission.

Orangetown police are conducting their own investigation, and our
opinion is that if the culprits are caught, they must be held
accountable. This second incident is just too much.

The primary goal, though, should be more education for all of us so
that bias incidents do not happen in the first place.