The Northern Westchester Examiner

Another Hate Incident Strikes Somers; Anonymous Instagram Accounts Target Students

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Two different Instagram accounts created in recent days are targeting Somers students with “cruel” and “disparaging” comments, a letter from the high school principal stated Thursday night. Many posts on the account are “sexist, racist, and homophobic,” principal Mark Bayer said.

He noted the posts are “vicious, slanderous, and downright disgusting.” As of last night, the accounts remained present. 

“I cannot begin to express how incredibly disappointed I am that this has happened here in Somers,” the principal said. “Based on everything our students have shown they can be, I want to believe that they are better than this. I have to believe that we are better than this.”

Somers has endured several hate incidents in recent years. There were two more instances in March of swastikas found at Somers High School. Last year, in January, a swastika was discovered written on a chair in the school library. Also, two Somers High School students were arrested in 2016 for causing more than $29,000 in damage to more than 40 school buses. 

F.B.I. statistics show hate crimes rising in recent years. In 2018, there were 7,120 documented cases, compared to 5,850 in 2015. 

As for this week’s social media incident, Bayer characterized the accounts as “cowardly.”

“Based on the number of students and parents who have reached out to us today, either directly through email or through our Anonymous Alerts system, it is clear that the vast majority of people in our community denounce this behavior and remain vigilant in making sure that it gets reported to school officials and law enforcement so that it can be stopped,” he wrote. “One thing that also stood out to us is how many students who responded to these posts defended one another and stood up to this form of bullying and harassment. This shows that when faced with negative behaviors such as this, the overwhelming majority of our students do the right thing.”

Late Friday afternoon, the principal sent a follow up letter noting officials have been working “to determine the names of any students involved in creating these accounts.”

“Information has been coming in all day today and we will take the time to verify its validity while also ensuring that we have all names of students who might have participated,” he said in the Thursday letter. “We will provide updates to families along the way once we learn anything new. As a reminder, due to privacy rights of all students in our district, we will never share specific names of any students nor will we be able to share specific school consequences that are meted out.”

He added there would be “consequences that are in line with our student code of conduct.”

Since learning about the accounts, the school has reported them directly to Instagram and has also notified law enforcement. Authorities have started an investigation.

“We would ask that anybody with any information as to the author of these accounts reach out to us immediately,” the principal said Thursday. “All reports will kept confidential.”

“Whether your child is a participant, a victim, an innocent bystander, or not even aware the accounts exist, this is an opportunity to have an important conversation about the power of our words and their impact on those around us,” Bayer concluded in the Thursday letter. “My hope is that if our students can put themselves in the shoes of a classmate, then they will realize that words can hurt and that their actions can have devastating consequences.”

This story is developing and will be updated with any new reporting details. 

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