As almost everyone is aware, an incident occurred recently that captured not only the attention of the press but, more importantly, the conscience of our community.
On a recent weekend, several of our young people participated in a drinking game with anti-Semitic implications. A picture was posted, a blog was written, and the story went viral. The most significant outcome, however, has not been the coverage abroad but the difficult yet meaningful discussions here at home – discussions about decision-making, about underage drinking, about the use and misuse of social media, and certainly about anti-Semitism and other forms of hurtful discrimination based on religion, race, culture, or sexual orientation. I am grateful to the families who have used this as an opportunity to reflect with their children. I am grateful to our teachers who have had conversations about the various issues with their students. And I am grateful to the many young people in this community who continue to consider how this incident may positively impact the decisions they will make in the future.
This incident has called for thoughtful action on the part of our entire community - and our community has responded. We are working with The Jewish Center of Princeton to host an event at the high school on May 4 for Holocaust Remembrance Day. We are partnering with Corner House to offer a program on May 18th focused on underage drinking and parent host liability. We are also in conversation with the Princeton Public Library to develop a forum on the power and potential problems associated with the use and misuse of social media.
We are looking at a timely response to this situation but also at a timeless one. We want to ensure that the issues raised by this event are ones we talk about more immediately with students but also ones about which we deepen students' understanding in the years to come. As educators, we are looking at those points in our curriculum where we can augment students’ understanding of the Holocaust and of other acts of genocide. We are considering ways to underscore students’ thoughtful and ethical use of social media. And we are continuing to explore the ways we can work with parents and community partners to help students make healthy and legal choices about drugs and alcohol.
As I shared in a recent message to the families at Princeton High School, we are defined not by the difficulties we encounter in our lives but by how we face them. As we continue to face this difficulty, I know that we will do so in the spirit of all that is right with our community – we will do so with honesty and integrity, with respect for different points of view, and with compassion for all of the people affected both within and beyond our town.
I hope we do so as well with a vision of what we can become as a school district and as a community – leaders in the areas of health and wellness, ethical decision making, and respect and affirmation for all races, religions, and cultures.