Ossining officials join call for hate speech education in schools

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Ossining officials have joined state and Westchester County officials in calling on schools to teach students about hate symbols.

It comes after a swastika and a racial slur were found in an Ossining High School bathroom. Last month, the News 12 investigative unit revealed staggering numbers from a two-year investigation. After sorting through the data, News 12 found nearly 600 acts of hate were documented in the last several years in the Hudson Valley. Of the 596 cases in our database, 8 percent were in schools.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Hate at Home
MOREPolice: Custodian finds swastika drawn on Ossining High School wall 

The primary targets were religion and race, with anti-Semitism accounting for more than half.

Between 2010 and 2018, Westchester saw the most cases - Rockland following second and then Putnam and Orange counties.

“We can't wait. We have to be proactive and make sure that we're getting to our children first," said Sen. David Carlucci. 

Carlucci is co-sponsoring legislation that calls for students in grades 6-12 to be educated about hate symbols.

“We can't just be reacting to the symbols that we see if it pops up in a public park or if it pops up on social media,” said Carlucci.

Since compiling our data, swastikas have been found drawn in Scarsdale High School, Pelham Middle School, Pleasantville High School, and just this week, the anti-Semitic symbol and a racial slur that were found sketched in Ossining. Superintendent Raymond Sanchez says this is the first time this has happened in any of his schools.

"It seems to be ... an isolated situation, but one we're taking very, very seriously and there's no place for this in our school settings,” said Sanchez.

Within 24 hours, elected officials of all levels gathered in Ossining Village Hall to formally announce their unanimous support of bringing lessons about hate into their schools.

"We need to come together and solve this problem at the earliest levels,” said Legislator Catherine Borgia.

Village Mayor Victoria Gearity told News 12 that she supported the bill before Thursday's incident and that the rise in hate around her community pushed her into action.

"It's an important message for young people to get...to understand the history of symbols of hate,” said Gearity.”They're a call to violence, they are a way to divide our community and could lead to incredible harm."

Ossining Police Chief Kevin Sylvester said the epidemic of hate is not only a social issue but also a safety issue.

"It's something that's never not on your mind,” said Sylvester. “In particular in our schools because this is where we're developing our next generation and we're building young minds."

Ossining officials say even if the statewide bill is not passed, they would like to bring age-appropriate lessons in their schools.

 

 

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