Editorial: North Naples Middle School ... lessons in responding to schoolyard ugliness

The story of “kick a Jew day” at North Naples Middle School, where students were singled out and kicked just for sport, is one of our community’s ugliest stories of 2009.

It ranks with the Naples woman’s garage door defaced with swastikas in June because she speaks and writes publicly for gay rghts.

One respected Jewish community leader says the school incident indicates the 10 abusers had picked up on a signal from adults that kicking Jews is the thing to do.

If there is a silver lining to this story, it is the collective response from the school, the school system and the Jewish community.

That response was swift and clear.

After a tip from a kicked student at the end of the school day, Principal Margaret Jackson did her homework and was ready the following morning. She addressed the entire student body. That included a review of the student code of conduct and an explanation of why what happened was wrong. She spoke of the need to respect one another — and possible consequences.

She then shed light into murky corners, calling on students with information to come to her office.

The culprits were given a one-day, in-school suspension, served right away, and the parents were summoned to school conferences.

Parents of the kicked students were notified as well.

In addition, the first 20 minutes of the school day at North Naples Middle School for the time being will focus on character traits such as respect and kindness.

No one in authority was willing to dismiss the kicking as kids being kids. Jewish leaders said the incident could amount to violations of Florida’s new anti-bullying law. One, Rabbi James Perman, said, “No child deserves this kind of treatment.”

With a strong, unified response such as that, a repeat of such abuse of anyone is less of a possibility than if the ugliness had been swept under the rug.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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