Thursday, April 18, 2024


In Wake of Anti-Semitic Chants, Safe Schools Top Board Agenda

By James Lomuscio

Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer told the school board tonight that referees should have stopped the state championship lacrosse game when anti-Semitic chants were hurled at a scoring Staples High School player.

At last Wednesday’s home tournament in which the Staples Wreckers lost 11 to 10 to Fairfield College Preparatory School’s team, Fairfield fans reportedly shouted anti-Semitic chants when a Jewish player scored.

It was also reported that a sign showing male genitalia was held up, and that some fans urinated on the school and cars in the parking lot.

“The lacrosse championship game with Fairfield Prep was upsetting and unprecedented,” Palmer said. “It flies in the face of the beliefs of both schools, and I’m surprised the referees did not stop the game.”

Palmer said she has asked Staples Athletic Director Marty Lisevick to interview referees. She added that Fairfield Prep Principal Robert A. Perrotta has taken action, calling Westport to apologize, and that he is working with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“We had players on the field who were being harassed,” Palmer said, adding that in keeping with the school system’s guiding principles and respect for diversity, immediate action must be taken in response to such displays.

“If we are going to live the guiding principles, they can’t just be words,” Palmer said. “We have to step in.”

She added that Westport has to work with other school systems to combat such hate speech.

“We are committed that we will never let our students experience that again,” Palmer said.

Her comments dovetailed with the first agenda item: 2018-19 safety and security goals for students and staff. The board unanimously approved the goal and is set to shore it up with tangible specifics when it meets late August.

From hard security that includes school security officers (SROs) and secure entries to softer ones, such as promoting diversity, the overarching theme is to protect students physically and emotionally, “making sure our schools are welcoming and nurturing,” Palmer said.

In a related matter, the Board of Education also heard a first reading of updated policies and regulations presented by board member Karen Kleine.

Specifically outlines by Kleine was Regulation 5145.5, a revision of the school system’s sexual harassment policy based on public input. Kleine said that sexual assault needs to be included in the regulation.

“When multiple persons make a complaint, we need to address each complaint individually,” she said.

She also said that there should be male and female Title 9 coordinators at Staples, and that while complaints should be filed within 30 days of an incident to facilitate investigations, they will still be taken after that time.

All reports will also include the word alleged, she said, since those who take the complaints are not in a position to decide guilt.

“The complainant should be able to write in her own words what happened,” Kleine said, adding that the complainant has the option to bring a teacher, parent or counselor when making a complaint, that students identities remain confidential and that there be no chance for retaliation.

In addition, Kleine said that the district’s bullying prevention and intervention policies are up to date.

In other matters tonight, the school board voted unanimously to approve Palmer’s request for a 2.25 percent salary increase totaling $15,000 for five nonunion personnel.

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