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Jordan Cox

Suffolk County residents can call 311 to report an antisemitic incident. File photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

By Sabrina Artusa

Just last week, schools across the North Shore — including Smithtown East, Commack and Port Jefferson high schools — all reported antisemitic language in their buildings.

‘It’s such a cruel way of being made to feel better or superior.’

— Renée Silver

Last week, swastikas were found in the boys bathroom at Commack High School and on a desk at Smithtown High School East. This is the second swastika reported at Commack this month — racist graffiti was also found on the bathroom stalls.

Two swastikas were also found on a desk at Smithtown East.

“This news is greatly upsetting, but it is important for our school community to be made aware of such incidents and work collaboratively to oppose hate whenever it occurs,” Smithtown Central School District Superintendent Mark Secaur wrote in a letter.

Jordan Cox, superintendent of the Commack School District, wrote in a letter to families, “Once the responsible individual is found, I am committed to pursuing legal action to the fullest extent,” adding, “Given the current conflict in the Middle East and the many families in our community who are hurting, it is a travesty that something like this occurred.”

Cox plans to take students to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and invited Holocaust survivors to speak to the students. Survivor Renée Silver, 92, told News 12 that she hopes “giving a little background” will help teach the students the harm of their actions.

“It’s such a cruel way of being made to feel better or superior,” Silver said.

In Port Jefferson high school, a swastika was found on a desk alongside the Star of David and the word “fight.” The Star of David can be a source of pride for many Jewish people or as a connection to their shared culture and past. It can also be seen as a symbol of support for Israel.

Police reports were filed for each of the incidents at the three high schools, and the county Hate Crimes Unit is involved.

Antisemitism and racist language are spreading at both high schools and middle schools across Long Island. Three swastikas were found in a bathroom at South Woods Middle School in Syosset. A swastika and antisemitic language was written on a whiteboard at the Harry B. Thompson Middle School, also in Syosset. A student was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. 

These incidents occur alongside the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which began on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked the Israeli towns neighboring Gaza. Over 11,000 Palestinians and about 1,200 Israelis have died, according to reports.

Antisemitism in Long Island schools mirrors a broader national trend. Since Oct. 7, incendiary language regarding the conflict has increased on social media. 

In addition, antisemitism and other hate crimes across the United States, including college campuses, have left students feeling scared and unsafe. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism recorded nearly a 400% increase in antisemitic incidents for the same Oct. 7-23 period from last year.

President Joe Biden (D) has addressed the uptick in antisemitism in the U.S., particularly on college campuses. “We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens,” he said. “We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia.”

Photo from Leg. Trotta's office

The Commack Kickline Cougarettes won the varsity kickline title and the Sportsmanship Award at the 2023 National Dance Alliance Competition in Orlando, Florida. This was their second consecutive kickline title at this competition.

Suffolk County Legislators Rob Trotta, Leslie Kennedy and Manuel Esteban Sr., who represent the Commack area, invited the team, their coaches and School Superintendent Jordan Cox to attend the May 23 General Meeting of the Legislature to recognize the team and coaches for their achievement.

“As a graduate of Commack High School North, I am so impressed by these student athletes and congratulate them and their coaches for their athleticism, precision and team effort,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. In addition, Legislator Trotta invited several of his classmates who were on the Kickline team at Commack North to join him in congratulating the current team members.

Pictured at the Suffolk County Legislature are the Commack Kickline team, coaches, Commack Superintendent Jordan Cox (left) Commack Athletic Director Pat Friel (next to the superintendent) Legislator Rob Trotta (center) former teammates (in front of him) and Legislator Kennedy (sixth from right).

Harborfields High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields Central School District is one step closer to technological improvements thanks to its utilization of New York State’s Smart Schools Bond Act.

At a school board meeting last week, Jordan Cox, executive director of institutional services, presented a $1 million investment plan that focuses on improving the district’s Internet connectivity operations by utilizing the bond.

“We’re looking for something that’s going to be long-term,” Cox said. “Something that we can make an investment in that’s going to last 10-plus years.”

The Smart Schools Bond Act, passed in 2014, authorized the issuance of $2 billion in general obligation bonds to finance improved education technology and infrastructure. Over the last two years, Cox said district officials have been meeting to determine what the highest priorities are for bond funds.

Once they narrowed in on Internet connectivity, a plan was created to update the “aging architecture to support high-speed traffic requirements for online productivity and assessment operations,” he said.

The entire plan included two projects — one $921,000 plan focusing on upgrading infrastructure and the other $177,000 plan on centralizing all district servers.

Cox said that Harborfields was using outdated equipment and upgrading it to support high-bandwidth and wireless devices would help the district support more devices at once.

“We’re talking about the bones that you don’t see behind the walls that allow us to keep the connectivity day-to-day within schools,” Cox said of the infrastructure.

The second part of the plan Cox pitched concentrated on centralizing all servers to help reduce the amount of data center equipment required, which he said would cut costs and negate the need of system downtime.

Cox said that fewer servers and less networking gear would mean less equipment would be required, lowering monthly power and cooling costs. Cox also said that the more programs and devices added to the district, the “more critical that our Internet connectivity does not have any down time.”

In his presentation, Cox said Harborfields would receive about $1.3 million from the state through the bond. These two projects should cost about $1 million, leaving $223,656 left over, he said.

Cox also said that the money from this bond does not expire and can be carried into the next school year. So if Harborfields does not use its full amount immediately, it does not lose the surplus.

Going forward, Cox said this plan needed to be approved by the board of education before the district can submit an online application. He also said the turnaround time from the state is unknown because Harborfields is one of the first districts to complete the process.

The school district did not confirm whether the board has approved the plan.