The Marin County public school community has been rocked by another wave of antisemitic and menacing social media posts, made public by the principal of Redwood High School in a letter released Tuesday after he was alerted by parents and students. The videos, images and text posted online contained Holocaust denial, homophobia and threats of rape directed toward students.
They follow similar incidents earlier this year, when the owner of an anonymous Instagram account harassed students for being Jewish.
“We do not have clear information on who is behind the most recent occurrence,” Tara Taupier, superintendent of the Tamalpais Union High School District, said in an email to J. The district comprises Redwood, Tamalpais and Drake high schools. “The perpetrator used the same name and profile image so there is a chance that it is the same person. We are still engaged with law enforcement making attempts to positively identify the perpetrator of the earlier social media accounts and posts.”
According to the email from Redwood Principal David Sondheim, the most recent social media posts “targeted our Jewish students and families with hateful messages including references to false claims the holocaust never happened, rape and homophobia. The accounts also followed Jewish students and asked Jewish students to follow the accounts.” TikTok videos were utilized as well as Instagram. Sondheim said the incidents were reported to the social media companies and the police, although it is unclear whether the school or parents reported it first.
Claire is a parent who asked for her last name not to be used out of concern for her family’s safety. Her three children formerly attended public schools, and she learned of the hateful messages from a WhatsApp group of around 100 Marin families established after previous incidents of hate speech. Claire said antisemitism had often gone unaddressed over the years, but that this occasion was startling.
“I think this incident is different, because they’re threatening to rape students,” she said.
In September, Redwood officials said they had identified the student behind social media accounts that used crude antisemitic drawings as profile pictures and targeted at least one Jewish student. One account was called “redwoodhs_soas” (“students organized against semitism”), with 10 followers and 123 accounts followed; another was called “Redwood SOAS.” A description of the former read: “Redwood students organized in anti semitism. We Currently compiling a google doc of jews in the district. Hit us up if you want to help!”
Students at the Larkspur school set up a petition to express their disappointment with the district’s response and request more transparency. The petition, which is still active, has garnered more than 6,800 online signatures.
Sondheim highlighted in his Tuesday email several programs and workshops the school has held since the September incident, including inviting Rabbi Stacy Friedman of Congregation Rodef Sholom to meet with a group of students. The school also will be using an Anti-Defamation League anti-hate curriculum in classes starting in March.
But for Claire, school-specific measures are not enough. She said there is no consistency in how antisemitism or bullying is addressed in the district or the county.
“Every school is doing their own thing,” she said.
Mary Jane Burke, the county superintendent of schools, said her office is attempting to address the problem across K-12 schools in Marin.
“What I’m targeting on right now, personally, from my seat, is what we do to ensure it doesn’t matter what is the school district, who the principal is — there are structures in place that are supportive,” she said.
Burke said the county ran a town hall this fall and has worked with the JFCS Holocaust Center and ADL to set up a series of workshops for students, parents, teachers and administrators on topics from Jewish history, such as women’s resistance under the Nazis. (The first workshop was held in fall and three more will be held during the school year.) The county is also working on its own ethnic studies curriculum, similar to other school districts that have decided to move ahead while the state is still debating what to include in the California-wide curriculum. Burke also emphasized that county measures against bias were ongoing and she was receptive to feedback.
“We can always do more,” she said. “I’m never going to say we did enough.”
Claire, who said her children had been subjected to antisemitic behavior on numerous occasions while attending Marin public schools, said officials’ efforts were clearly falling short.
It’s “not going to interrupt the seeds of hate that are spreading, and have been for years,” she said.