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Forbes: School Board Asked to Do More After Swastika Found at High School

Written by Myava Mitchell Contributor WETA/PBS Associate to Executive Producer, Thomas Chiodo.


May 24, 2023 / Forbes

2022 Student Journalism Challenge, Isabella Caruso

As we look at the impact on education, post-pandemic, we’ve sought out the student’s point of view. Isabella Caruso, a senior from Pelham, NY, shared her experiences as part of the Student Journalism Challenge produced by PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and powered by the XQ Institute.

How has your school handled the fight against racism and hate crimes?

PTA leaders from Colonial Elementary School and Pelham Memorial High School called on the board of education to do more to fight hate and bias in the schools during Tuesday’s board meeting, following the Oct. 24 discovery of a swastika in a PMHS stairwell.

“I stand here tonight to ask that you take decisive action to put an end to the racism, hate, and bias that students are experiencing in our schools,” said Lisa Schaeffer, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for the Colonial PTA, who spoke along with other parents from the school.

While the Colonial representatives acknowledged the district’s actions after the most recent incident of antisemitism followed protocol, they said they found the familiarity of the email sent out uncomfortable. “In fact, the Colonial PTA was here addressing the board exactly one year ago because of a different act of racism found on school property, asking that the district take decisive action,” said Schaeffer. “We refuse to accept this as the new normal.”

How has the board of education aided in this fight?

Schaeffer called on the board to prioritize the work of implementing its DEI policy and engage a DEI professional to “ensure that DEI is front and center in each building.” The Colonial PTA officials stressed the urgent need to hire a DEI coordinator, a position that is included in the budget.

“Beyond this, many of our newly elected board members ran on a platform of accountability, communication and transparency,” said Schaeffer. “We ask that the board deliver on those commitments, not just around testing and academic achievement, but on the implementation of the district’s DEI policy, and the benchmarking of progress made against its goals.”

Marjut Herzog, president of the PMHS PTA and a member of the Pelham Jewish Center, also spoke about the latest incident of swastikas being found on school property. “When something gets repeated, it is no longer a mistake, it’s a behavior,” said Herzog. She said the PTA will support teachers and the district by ensuring the resources are provided for education on the Holocaust, as well as learning skills such as allyship and the harm of hate speech.

(In September 2019, swastikas were drawn in a Pelham Middle School boys bathroom and the boys locker room.)

What follow-up has taken place in the community?

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ said once the district staff was notified about the swastika found in the high school, an email was sent out to parents to ensure that all members of the district were informed. She said she also met with Rabbi Benjamin Resnick from the Pelham Jewish Center to make sure that the students at his congregation were supported.

None of the seven school board members responded to the PTA statements. It’s been the board’s unwritten policy since 2019 to not reply to comments or questions from the public.

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About the Author

Myava Mitchell is an award-winning independent producer and entrepreneurial business leader with over 10 years of experience in television, production, and media.

Her expertise in research, communications, special events, creative, and screenwriting has translated to exceptional results for companies such as BET Networks (Viacom), Darius Films in Los Angeles, and Capital Concerts in Washington, DC. Currently, she serves as an Associate to Executive Producer, Thomas Chiodo, at WETA/PBS.

Myava has an M.F.A. in Film Production and Producing from Loyola Marymount University, and a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism from North Carolina Central University.

The Well Beings Blog is a series that addresses critical topics around the health, mental health, and well-being of America’s youth and adults. The blog launched in 2020 as a companion to the Well Beings Youth Mental Health Project and Ken Burns Presents Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, A Film by Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers ( |, which is now streaming on the PBS app. #WellBeings #WellBeingsLive

The current series of articles addresses creativity, resilience, and well-being among America’s youth. It is part of the Student Journalism Challenge produced by PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and powered by the XQ Institute. The challenge celebrates young people’s creative expression, encouraging students ages 13-18 to tell their own stories of their communities and their education by contributing printvideo, and audio pieces on the theme, “My Education, My Future.” Submissions were evaluated by a diverse roster of professional journalists.

The Well Beings Blog “Student Journalism Challenge” series features winning articles and honorable mentions in the print category.

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