The Amity Regional School District is responding to complaints of anti-Semitism and intolerant behavior after high school students and parents expressed outrage at school officials for not doing enough to address these issues during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting in Woodbridge.
"I’m here because I feel there is a rising undertone of hatred, anti-Semitism, anti-gay, racism and bigotry in our community that has not been properly addressed or stamped out," parent Paul Schatz said.
Students that spoke up told NBC Connecticut they could not remain silent, especially after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history last month at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.
Each student that addressed Board members ended their statement by saying "I do not feel safe here."
"The students do not feel safe," Amity senior Ally Grubman said Tuesday, "and it’s gotten to a point where it’s affected our education. We can’t concentrate, we can’t walk the halls without feeling unsafe, we are afraid to walk with other Jewish teens because we feel that we are being targeted."
Grubman and several of her classmates are part of the Jewish youth group, BBYO.
"I’m not interested in anybody sending us thoughts and prayers," Amity senior Jonathan Schachter said. "I’m interested in our administration and community around us providing action against this anti-Semitism and intolerance in our community."
The students said they have faced anti-Semitism in the form of social media posts, public intimidation in the hallways from students saying "kill the Jews," and swastikas drawn on bathroom stalls.
"Honestly, it’s kind of horrifying the fact that some of my relatives have survived and not survived the Holocaust," Grubman said, "and just seeing the swastikas around the school, we found one today while we were having a meeting with administration in the lecture hall."
NBC Connecticut obtained a copy of the email Amity High School principal Anna Mahon sent out after the meeting.
"Students are asked to sign up to meet with members of the administration and counseling to address the anti-Semitic sentiments along with other intolerant behaviors students have witnessed at the high school," Mahon writes.
The letter said there will be an increased police presence in the school’s parking lot and more faculty supervision in hallways in between classes. The district also plans to work with local clergy, the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven to address anti-Semitic and intolerant behavior.
The local chapter of the ADL confirms a staff member was at the school campus Tuesday afternoon for meetings with students and faculty.
"Today it felt like everyone in the school, except for few bad apples that are in our community, everyone was supporting us," Schachter said.
Interim Superintendent of Schools James A. Connelly sent a letter to the school community saying the Board of Education and school officials were "shocked and saddened by fears and concerns reported by students and community members about anti-Semitic behaviors they have experienced in both school and the community."
"The Amity School District will not tolerate this type of harassment and will investigate and take disciplinary action against students who demonstrate unacceptable behavior," Connelly writes. "We will also cooperate and coordinate with the local police departments in some of these investigations."
Woodbridge Police said Tuesday they are investigating recent acts of vandalism with local, state and federal partners.
Some Jewish families in the community told NBC Connecticut their homes were targeted.
Grubman said she is hopeful Monday’s emotional meeting will be a turning point.
"It might get worse before it gets better, but I definitely feel we are moving in a positive direction," she said.