By Steve Wessler
The Boston Globe
The chants of “Jews won’t replace us,” shirts bearing quotes from Hitler, and signs with swastikas we saw on Saturday in Charlottesville may have startled Americans who believe that virulent anti-Semitism is a thing of the past. But for those of us who spend time listening to American middle and high school students, it was no surprise at all.
I have seen anti-Jewish bias in American schools for 25 years, first when I directed a statewide unit in the Maine attorney general’s office, working with local and state police to obtain restraining orders against people who engaged in bias-motivated violence and threats, and later in my ongoing work to reduce bias-motivated bullying and harassment in schools.
When I work with schools on anti-bias strategies, I begin by doing focus groups with students, something I’ve now done in dozens of schools across the United States. In most schools, I have seen high levels of degrading language about people of color, immigrants, girls, LGBTQ students, Muslims, and Jews.
Anti-Jewish bias in schools, which seems to have increased over the past decade, focuses on two themes. One is traditional stereotypes about Jews, including about their physical appearance (large noses and curly hair) and about their supposed obsession with money. I have heard many accounts of students throwing pennies or quarters in front of Jewish students.