Reports of racist, homophobic speech & swastika signs at Piedmont schools

A dance formation in the shape of a swastika, Nazi salutes in the hallways. It's the latest report of anti-Semitic and racist attacks at an East Bay School district.

"There was a gym class where apparently some of the kids formed a dance routine in the shape of a swastika. There have been heil Hitler salutes in the hallways," says Rabbi Mark Bloom of Temple Beth Abraham, whose son is a junior at Piedmont High School where some of the reported incidents occurred.

Students also report verbal assaults. 

"I've been told you'll burn like your ancestors.  I've been told you F'ing jew," says Piedmont High Freshman Tamir Menahemy.  A letter from school leaders to parents sent on Monday said the issues have been going on for months, although it was first brought to their attention in April.  

Recent incidents led school officials to hold an assembly Monday to address these concerns and others including racist and homophobic hate speech. The superintendent said he thought the schoolwide gathering would be helpful and perhaps cathartic.

 “Student participation at the assembly reflected the overall positive character and integrity that we see in our student body," says Supt. Randall Booker.

But some students weren't so sure that everyone heard the message about tolerance.

  "It was powerful to me but I don't know how much it affected the kids who were saying the anti-Semitic," says Menahemy.

Other students said they appreciated the gesture, but they wondered if only certain minorities get attention when they are harassed.

"I'm just wondering where our assembly is, or where our awareness is or where the adults are when we need them," says Piedmont High Junior Casey Kama, who says she's attended school in the district since grade school.  I've been shoved around called a N-word multiple times.  I'm not actually black, I'm Tongan." 

Kama says although what's being said about her Jewish counterparts is extremely hurtful. She claims the administration didn't deal with the issue when it happened to her and other students of color.  "Go back to the plantation, the N-word," says Millennium High Senior Kalu Dennis. 

"The colored student body has been going to the administration office all year and the second a white Jewish kid goes to the office and feels as though they've been victimized then they see it as a need to have an emergency assembly," says Kama. 

District officials are investigating the incidents with help from police. "Piedmont Unified is dedicated to creating a safe, secure, respectful learning environment for all, with no tolerance for bigotry," says Booker.