By Jano Tantongco
Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) called on a moment of calm over the long Thanksgiving weekend in light of a recent increase in incidents of hate.
“There’s been an increase in incidents in hate speech and hate incidents nationwide, but there’s also been some issues locally,” Spencer said. “What we’re seeing that those that wish to sow hate have been emboldened.”
He mentioned incidents including swastikas found in a storage area at Northport High School last week. Suffolk police couldn’t confirm details of the incident before Tuesday’s deadline, but Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer posted a statement to the district website on Friday that “multiple swastikas” were drawn in the Northport High School theater storage room.
“This reprehensible behavior will not be tolerated and does not reflect our school district or community as a whole,” Banzer stated. “We will continue to investigate the incident and ensure that the person(s) responsible are disciplined in the appropriate manner.”
Spencer also cited incidents at Elwood-John Glenn and Harborfields High Schools.
When asked about the alleged hate incident, a spokeswoman for Elwood said “a student used insensitive language towards another student while passing in the hallway.”
A police spokeswoman said the department has not received any reports of hate crimes since the presidential election.
Spencer, along with Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, was slated to hold a press conference on Nov. 23, 12:45 p.m., at the Tri Community and Youth Agency in Huntington to announce his four-point plan to address the issue.
The first point of Spencer’s plan centers around expanding education on the significance of the seriousness and history behind of such incidents, including the history of swastikas and Nazi Germany. He plans to work with school districts to host such educational assemblies.
Second, he aims to collaborate with Suffolk police headquarters to help instruct officers to recognize hate crimes and how to handle victims with sensitivity and awareness.
Third, he will also remind the public of the Suffolk Crime Task Force, a body established in 2009 designed to deal with such issues and make recommendations on legislation.
Lastly, Spencer hoped to convey the message to not “stand by idly, take a stand.” He advised not getting into altercations, but rather to speak up.
“As we enter this season of Thanksgiving and peace, we are calling on tolerance, we’re calling on people to come together and heal,” Spencer said. “We’re calling on unity.”