Advocates seeking info after swastika found on teen’s back
After the FBI was unsuccessful in identifying the source of scratches that resemble a swastika on her son’s back, a local mother, the Clark County School District and advocates are calling on members of the community to come forward with information related to the incident.
The mother, who has remained anonymous, declined an interview request from The Nevada Independent, but has shared details with other news outlets. She told Jewish Press, which first reported the incident, that her son, who is a student at Clark High School, came home one day in early March with the swastika on his back. Her son is autistic and nonverbal and wears a kippah.
The 17-year-old student makes his way around school with the help of a shadow teacher, who provides one-on-one support during the day, and a service dog. The mother told Jewish Press that the shadow teacher said nothing wrong had happened at school the day she first noticed the swastika.
According to a CCSD spokesperson, the district’s school police investigated the report and interviewed staff but there was “no evidence found” to indicate the marking’s origin. The case was handed to the FBI to review, but the district spokesperson said the federal agency did not find any evidence.
The school district said in a statement that it “will not tolerate discriminatory behaviors that contradict an inclusive community and impact student safety and well-being.”
After filing a report with CCSD Police, the Anti-Defamation League Nevada (ADL) became involved to advocate for the family.
Jolie Brislin, the regional director for ADL, told The Nevada Independent that in her 15 years with the organization “this is one of the worst incidents” she has seen. Brislin estimates the Jewish population in Southern Nevada is approximately 70,000.
“This incident illustrates the points of intersectionality of how hate can manifest in these marginalized communities,” she said.
Last year, ADL tracked 3,697 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States — the most since tracking began in 1979 and a 36 percent increase from the previous year. Thirty of those incidents took place in Nevada, according to ADL. The organization has also seen an increase in antisemitic incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools — from 161 in 2020 to nearly 500 in 2022.
The Legislature is currently considering a bill, SB158, which would allow cameras in certain classrooms with students with disabilities.
Brislin said she does not have an opinion on the bill or whether cameras would have helped in this case, adding that education is the key to prevent hate-fueled incidents in schools. She said she would like to see a more proactive approach from CCSD, rather than reactive, and encourage teachers and students to speak up.
Brislin said ADL will hold an antisemitism educational course with Clark High School’s administration.
“No child is born hating, and we know that the only antidote to combat hate is education,” she said. “When we see the rise of Jew hatred, it's not just affecting the Jews … we see the rise of anti-LGBT, anti-Black, anti-immigrants, and so antisemitism is really the canary in the coal mine.”