Rabbi Craig Rosenstein was shocked to learn on Wednesday that his daughter, a seventh-grader at Escobedo Middle School in Las Vegas, had found a note with a swastika and a menacing message on her desk the day before.
She had been excused to use the bathroom and returned to her desk to find the hand-drawn swastika on it and the words “You don’t belong here” written underneath.
If it had just been a swastika itself, Rosenstein said, he probably would have let it go. He grew up with those kind of taunts and got used to them, he said.
“But when you put a phrase underneath it, it basically becomes, in my opinion, a hate crime,” he said. “It’s terrorism, it’s emotional intimidation and that needs to be dealt with.”
He said students know that his daughter — who is adopted and African-American — is Jewish. He also said that there was a second note that depicted Adolf Hitler doing a Nazi salute and a swastika, but he believes someone ripped it up and threw it out.
The Clark County School District reiterated its zero-tolerance attitude toward racist incidents on Wednesday after Rosenstein reported the incident to school officials and then went public with the story.
In a statement, the district said that the safety and well-being of students is of the utmost importance.
“The school took this incident seriously and appropriate staff have been in contact with the student’s parents,” the statement reads. “Racially motivated incidents are never tolerated in the Clark County School District.”
The district said it was unable to comment on what discipline, if any, the offending student faced because of privacy laws.
“However, the matter has been investigated and administrative action has been taken,” the district said.
Whatever action is taken is probably not going to be effective, Rosenstein argued. He said the district needs to be more vocal to ensure that this kind of behavior has no place in the classroom.
“You can’t stop the hate,” he said. “People are going to hate no matter what. But you can certainly not give those that hate the belief that they can do this kind of stuff out in the open and not think that there’s going to be any (consequences).”
Questions about racist behavior in schools reached a fever pitch in March after Arbor View High School students posted pictures of black students on Instagram with racial slurs and threats to shoot up the school. Two male teenagers were arrested, while a third was cited for cyberbullying.
The incident at Escobedo drew a response from U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev. The Jewish senator is a co-sponsor of legislation that would broaden the definition of anti-Semitism in order to toughen anti-discrimination laws in schools, according to her office.
“No child, or adult for that matter, should ever be made to feel unsafe, threatened or intimidated by anti-Semitic or white supremacist bigotry,” she said in a statement. “We all have an obligation to speak up and fight against all forms of hate in our community. I will continue to shine a light on this very serious issue and I urge community leaders everywhere to do the same.”