Fieldston School Under Fire Over Middle School Swastika Incident

The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an elite New York private school in the Bronx, has come under fire for failing to adequately discuss the anti-Semitic connotations of the swastika after students in a middle-school class drew the symbol.

Administrators barely touched the Nazi connotations of the notorious symbol and did not mention the Holocaust during a 15-minute assembly held after sixth-graders were found drawing the symbol, the New York Post reported.

School administrators counter that they quickly approached the student who drew the symbol and took action to make sure students know they must not display it under any circumstances.

“(Fieldston) has zero tolerance for hate speech,” head of school Damian J. Fernandez and board of trustees chair Caryn Seidman ­Becker wrote in a letter to the school community. “To be clear: a swastika is hate speech and, as such, its depiction will not be tolerated in our school.”

Fieldston is located in Riverdale, a neighborhood with a large Jewish population.

The Post said several sixth-graders were discovered drawing swastikas in their art class late in November. A notebook was also discovered on the middle-school campus with “Hitler Rocks” written across the front, the paper reported.

School officials suggested in their letter to the community that the notebook incident was still under investigation.

Administrators responded to the incidents by assembling the grade to discuss the swastika. Parents said that 12 minutes of the 15-minute presentation the teachers delivered focused on the swastika’s history as a sacred symbol in India, while only briefly touching on the fact that it was adopted by the Nazis.

Following backlash from parents, the school’s administrators announced plans to hold an assembly reinforcing the seriousness of displaying the swastika.

The school also this week announced plans to improve its Holocaust education program. It announced that it would partner with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to “expand and deepen” students’ understanding of Nazi Germany.

This is not the first time Fieldston has found itself in hot water this year. The Jewish Week reports that earlier in 2015 the school sorted 8-year-olds into their respective racial groups to promote racial pride and advocate for interracial understanding. While parents and students were divided on the lesson, some believed it was segregationist.

Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture intern.

Author

Talya Zax

Talya Zax

Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture fellow. Contact her at zax@forward.com or on Twitter, @TalyaZax.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Fieldston School Under Fire Over Middle School Swastika Incident

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close