antisemitism,  Stateside

Anti-Semitism in Bay Area Schools

Vice recently posted a fine piece that affirms what I have seen while teaching in the Bay Area over the last few years: a growing level of anti-Semitic incidents carried out by students against other classmates.  Max Cherney writes:

During the first quarter of 2017, compared with the first quarter of 2016, there has been an 86 percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Among those 541 preliminarily identified incidents were 380 cases of harassment and 155 reports of vandalism—as well as the wave of 161 bomb threats against Jewish institutions.

I decided to take a closer look at what’s happening at Bay Area public schools, requesting records of reported anti-Semitic activity from approximately 40 districts in the region. Those records showed a spike in incidents at schools in nearly every county, from Marin to the Peninsula to the East Bay and beyond.

So far this year, 29 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported by more than 25 schools—compared with 25 incidents reported by more than 16 schools in all of 2016. Some schools have experienced multiple incidents, while others faced ongoing problems in the classroom. Many of the incidents have not been reported in the news media, and some parents of the affected students have complained about slow or lackluster responses from administrators and school districts.

Unfortunately, I believe that last statement from Max is more common than one would expect. There is a general unwillingness for schools to report when these incidents occur. Even at a good public school like the one I work at, the general tendency is to try and deal with these issues discretely and not draw attention from community activists.

My school experienced a number of anti-Semitic incidents this year. To the administrator’s credit, public events were held and speakers were brought in to speak with students about said occurrences. Having some experience in this realm, I sat down with the students who had used anti-Semitic language or mocked Jewish students.

In each case, the students were a bit perplexed that their actions were being treated so seriously. The language they used was abundantly common in the digital realms they congregated; the meme culture and anonymity of the Internet has allowed for a proliferation of casual anti-Semitism among young people. While recognizing that they had done something wrong, as these slurs were ubiquitous online, the students felt they were no different than any other schoolyard insult.

It is a troubling trend, and clearly not one portions of the left have any interest in addressing.

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