Scarice Updates Community On Alleged Bias Incidents

Last night, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice provided an update on Friday’s allegations of antisemitic and racist behavior in Cheshire, at the Staples High School football game. He wrote:

As the community is aware, there were allegations made on social media Friday evening, including: antisemitic and racist comments made in the stands, the presence of a Confederate flag, and the waving of an Israeli flag. School administrators and law enforcement from both Cheshire and Westport immediately commenced investigations.

Because of the rise in reports of antisemitic and racist incidents, we also immediately sought input from the Anti-Defamation League office in Connecticut. ADL works with schools and law enforcement to help ensure incidents are addressed appropriately.

The Cheshire Public Schools administration and the Cheshire Police Department have been  most collaborative and in constant communication with our administration and police department, sharing information and supporting each other’s investigation.  We are most grateful for this cooperation.

Today, we were informed by Cheshire Superintendent Jeff Solan and Chief of Police Neil Dryfe that their investigation has determined that the Israeli flag was not intended to intimidate Jewish people or motivated by antisemitism. Police reports indicate that the students who brought and waved the flag are Jewish, and have shared that they brought the flag to the game because it was a school spirit “Red, White & Blue Nite” in the student section.

Screen shot of the Israeli flag, in the Cheshire High School student section. It was later removed. (Photo/Jenny Bradshaw for Inklings)

At this point in the ongoing investigation — which includes the review of photos, video, and interviews with numerous students, staff, and police officers – there is no corroborating evidence to substantiate the presence of a Confederate flag.

Additionally, we were informed by the Cheshire Superintendent and Police Chief  that when Staples High School cheerleaders observed students in the stands waving an Israeli flag, and made a complaint to a Cheshire police officer, the officer informed the Cheshire High School administration and an administrator directed the students holding the Israeli flag to put it away. Fortunately the use of police body cams have confirmed this finding.

That said, the Westport Public Schools is fully committed to finishing our investigation by speaking with every student or community member personally impacted by these events. We will listen to each first person eyewitness account of these events and will reserve actions before concluding our investigation. Receiving this information from our Cheshire colleagues is helpful, yet we must fulfill our obligations to listen to each and every account. The administration will continue these efforts and provide ongoing updates to the community.

It is critical that the community understands the level of transparency and thoroughness that we have taken.

The Westport Public Schools and ADL, along with the Cheshire Public Schools, remain committed to fighting antisemitism and racism in any form and remain united in that effort. School administrators will be available to discuss this situation with any students who wish to do so. We are continuing to gather facts from eyewitnesses, so please allow us the time needed to fully assess what occurred and determine the appropriate response. Please contact us if you have relevant information.

15 responses to “Scarice Updates Community On Alleged Bias Incidents

  1. If indeed it is true the Israeli flag was brought to the game by Jewish students, then that is a relief. Kind of a strange thing to do, bringing the flag to the game, but whatever. Sounds like the authorities are proceeding properly.

  2. Why does it matter who brought and was holding the flag? Do rights of freedom of speech and expression no longer exist? Why were the students made to put away the flag? What is America becoming?

  3. Students do not have unlimited first amendment rights, particularly when expression is used to intimidate or disrupt the school community. For anyone interested in how this practice applies in the modern world of social media, the Supreme Court confronted the question head on in the Brandi Levy case just this past term. It makes for interesting reading.

    https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20-255_g3bi.pdf

  4. Having determined that there was in fact no evidence of anti-Semitic or racist actions by the Cheshire community, I think it only remains to inquire what was the nature of the adverse reaction by the Staples cheerleaders to the Israeli flag, e.g., was it Jewish cheerleaders and supporters who thought the flag was an indication of anti-Jewish hostility, or was it non-Jewish cheerleaders who regarded the Israeli flag as inherently offensive. If the latter, then I fear we have an anti-Semitism problem in Westport, rather than Cheshire.

    • Intentions and legalities/rules aside, this made the students upset and feel discriminated against. Let’s not discount or judge that reality.

  5. Do these Jewish Cheshire students bring the Israeli flag to all games or just this one? Was the flag being used to just to show their support of Israel or to antagonize?

    • I can see very clearly why waving an Israeli flag at a game versus a town with one of the State’s highest Jewish populations is antagonistic, offensive, and jarring. The flag, in this out of context setting, was a tool being used to highlight a difference and a perceived inferior status. Freedom of expression and the like aside, you all know this is true.

  6. A big fat Nothing Burger! Lesson (hopefully) Learned…Don’t race to judgement.

  7. Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t understand how waving an Israeli flag could be construed as “anti-Semitic.”

    • Bringing an Israeli flag to a high school football game seems like an add thing. I am not sure I have ever heard of it. But, indeed, I am having a difficult time understanding how that could be considered taunting the Jewish students, I don’t know, if I am Jewish student and I see the flag in the stands, I might feel a sense of pride — just the opposite of taunting. Whatever the intent of the Cheshire students, I hope it stays on the local level and that the police do not get involved.

  8. Imagine if the waved a Palestinian flag.

    • My guess is that it would be equally as strange, unusual and out of place at a high school football game.
      What do you imagine it would be like?

  9. How many Jewish players were on the Cheshire squad? There seem to be some interesting backgrounds there. I’ll wait for investigation to clarify.

  10. http://www.cheshireherald.com/Sports/No-Evidence-To-Support-Accusations-Of-Anti-Semitic-Behavior-At-Football-Game-Officials-Claim

    “The controversy centered around Cheshire fans who brought an Israeli flag to the game. The students, who are of Jewish descent, had wanted to show support for their personal heritage as part of the red, white, and blue theme. However, when Staples players and cheerleaders saw the flags, they brought it to the attention of police officers.

    ‘The kids brought their Israeli flag because it is blue and white. Once we realized that it (the flag) was upsetting the other team, we asked them to put it away,’ explained CHS Athletic Director Steve Trifone. ‘It was upsetting for the kids, but they did what we asked. It was nothing against them, but just a misunderstanding of their intent from the visiting team.’

    ‘We received an email from a Staples High School cheerleader who said that they didn’t realize that the (Cheshire) students were Jewish and felt that this was a misunderstanding. I give the girl a lot of credit for reaching out to us,’ stated Solan. ‘I feel terrible that the girls had heard anti-Semitic chants in the past. I’m sure that our (CHS) students were also upset to have to put their flag away.’

    Accusations that a Confederate flag was seen in the crowd and that racist chants could be heard began to pop up via social media, however, after reviewing photos and conducting interviews with those present during the game, Solan stated that no evidence has been discovered to support those allegations.”

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    The upshot is that a Staples cheerleader made an incorrect assumption about the intent of Cheshire students holding the Israeli flag – and got the police involved. The Cheshire police told the Cheshire students to put the flag away because it made a Staples student uncomfortable. The Cheshire students complied.

    What if the Cheshire students told the police that they were made uncomfortable by the request to put the flag away, and felt that the Staples student’s actions were anti-Semitic?

    More importantly, I don’t understand why a student would believe it is appropriate to get the police involved in such a matter. Aren’t the home team’s athletic directors typically in the stands? Why not talk to that person or a Staples parent or an adult from the Cheshire side of the field? I hope that Mr. Scarice can have a talk (or, otherwise provide information) to Staples students about the potential dangers of “jumping to conclusions” and emphasize that asking the police to handle a “misunderstanding“ such as this was an inappropriate use of the police officer’s time.

    • Elaine,

      It is very refreshing to read ALL your levelheaded, logical thoughts and suggestions, especially:

      “What if the Cheshire students told the police that they were made uncomfortable by the request to put the flag away, and felt that the Staples student’s actions were anti-Semitic?

      You are wise, insightful and a true leader.

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