The case involves an antisemitic remark allegedly uttered by a Haddonfield middle-schooler. It’s the fourth bias incident reported in the community since April.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 20, 2022
Haddonfield detectives are investigating another bias incident involving local school-aged children, at least the fourth in the borough in the past six months.
On Friday, Haddonfield Police Chief Jason Cutler reported an investigation into behavior documented at the Haddonfield Middle School on September 13.
Haddonfield Superintendent of Schools Chuck Klaus confirmed to NJ Pen that the incident involved an eighth-grade student who reportedly said, “Kill the Jews!”
The district does not comment on student discipline, however Klaus said he was “disheartened and saddened that these behaviors continue to reveal themselves” among students.
“This is an issue in the district, but a part of it goes into the community and beyond,” the superintendent said.
In response to the incident, Haddonfield schools “continue to work with ADL on many levels, and have once again asked for assistance at this time,” Klaus said.
He added that Haddonfield Middle School Principal Hamisi Tarrant is connecting with families in the local community through the Betty and Milton Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill.
Klaus is himself in contact with Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Chatten “to arrange training and information sessions on implied bias and bias crimes.”
David Snyder, Chief Advancement & Community Relations Officer of the Jewish Federation of South Jersey, said that his organization continues to work with Haddonfield Schools, offering age-appropriate education for students at every grade level into which it’s invited.
“These things still exist, and we do appreciate those districts that take it seriously and try to investigate,” Snyder said of the latest report. “Every year, it’s a new batch of kids, a new batch of teachers, and different age groups.”
Cutler said that police have a limited ability to intercept such behaviors as compared with the influences that parents and educators wield over children.
“We’re not really equipped to teach,” he said. “The police should be the last resort. Education for the school and the home are the two best ways to deal with this.
“Kids have to realize this isn’t okay,” Cutler said.
Borough detectives will continue to investigate the case, but the chief said the student’s alleged remarks don’t appear to have been indicative of any specific threat.
“We were contacted by the school,” the chief said. “We’re looking into the matter.”
Bias crimes are up in New Jersey overall, but Haddonfield especially has been hit with a number of high-profile incidents, including a group of juveniles who spray-painted swastikas outside the Quaker Meetinghouse, a teen who drew a swastika on the middle school playground in shaving cream, and another who racially taunted an opposing baseball player during a game against West Deptford.
In April 2022, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said 2021 had been a record-high year for reported bias incidents in the state.
In 2021, New Jersey law enforcement agencies logged 1,871 such incidents, up 29 percent from the 1,447 bias incidents reported in 2020.
The OAG noted that uptick is likely a combination of more thorough reporting metrics as well as an increase in bias crimes nationwide. It’s the third consecutive year in which the state has established a record total for hate crimes reported.
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