Local leaders denounce anti-Semitic images found outside Portland school

Middlesex

PORTLAND, Conn. (WTNH) — State leaders are speaking out after anti-semitic images were found outside Brownstone Intermediate School in Portland.

Just like every school in Connecticut, students here at Portland’s Brownstone Intermediate have to wear masks in class. Some people don’t like that. Some of those people held a protest in front of the school Sunday morning, and someone brought a sign that some think went too far.

School Superintendent Charles Britton said the images likened him and the Board of Education Chairwoman Sharon Peters to the image of Adolf Hitler above caricatures of masked children.

“And don’t believe that my behavior in an effort to keep children safe reflects fascist ideology,” Britton said.

They believe they were targeted over their handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Portland Board of Education released a statement Monday, saying,

The Portland School District and Board of Education has worked tirelessly through the Pandemic to ensure the safety of our children, teachers, and staff. We have consistently made decisions in line with guidance issued by the Connecticut Department of Health and the Connecticut State Board of Education. Throughout this time there have been those who disagreed with the decisions we have made. They have voiced their criticisms and opposition at our meetings respectfully. We fully understand that the decisions we make affect the lives of all those involved with the schools. The Board has and continues to encourage appropriate civil discourse at our meetings.

A year ago, the Board released a statement concerning the murder of George Floyd. Now, as then, the Board condemns all acts of bigotry and hatred. The anti-Semitic images displayed in front of one of our schools on Sunday were abhorrent, and as State Senator Needleman said in his statement has no place in our political discourse. The Portland Board of Education will continue to take the steps it feels are necessary to ensure the safety of everyone at our schools and will not be deterred by this hateful act.

“I am appalled and sickened at this image appearing in Portland in front of our beloved Brownstone Intermediate School,” said First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield. “Our Superintendent Charles Britton and our Chairwoman of the Board of Education, Sharon Peters, do not deserve this hateful image. It is abhorrent and I strongly condemn it, along with State Representative Christie Carpino and State Senator Norm Needleman.”

Kathy Stolz has a daughter at Brownstone and says whoever made the sign is just spreading fear.

“Like my 10-year-old said, you have an option. You can stay home and not wear a mask, or come to school and wear a mask, and it’s saving everybody’s lives. Not just hers, everybody around them.”

The Nazi imagery is certainly bringing out a lot of strong words from officials.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz released a statement, saying, “This is an anti-Semitic and offensive act of intimidation. I stand in strong support of the Portland Superintendent and the Portland Board of Education in protecting the health and safety of students, teachers, and their families.”

State Attorney General William Tong said, “Hitler killed 11 million people, including 6 million Jews, in one of the worst human rights atrocities known to man. Masks are safe, effective, and save lives. There is no comparison and to draw that false parallel is hateful, ignorant, and repugnant.”

“Any reference to Adolf Hitler and Nazis has no place in our political discourse,” said State Senator Norm Needleman. “Whether you agree or disagree over policy, you do not bring this kind of hate to the very campus and classrooms that educate our children. It is disgraceful and I along, with my colleagues, will not stand for it.”

“There is no place in our society for this type of offensive imagery,” said State Representative Christie Carpino. “I stand in strong support of civil discourse and open dialogue, but I condemn hate.”

The Superintendent says Portland Schools have been in-person most of the year, even with students occasionally testing positive.

Britton said, “And we have zero instances of that being spread in our schools, which I think is a reflection of the efficacy of the mitigation strategies, including wearing masks.”

Plus, mom Kathy says the kids don’t mind masks.

“Actually, not at all. They get different colors, they get different styles. They coordinate it with their clothes. They love it.”

Other than harsh words of condemnation, it does not look like there will be any consequences for whoever brought that sign. And the superintendent says, if anyone wants to discuss COVID mitigation measures, they can just give him a call.

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