Clayton district says students disciplined over anti-Semitic online post

Parents expressed their frustrations with the Clayton School Board on Wednesday night over anti-Semitic comments made on social media by students at Clayton High School.

A group of students have been disciplined in connection to the Instagram post with the offensive content, officials said.

Clayton High School Principal Dan Gutchewsky sent a letter about the incident to parents last weekend. The district isn’t divulging the details of the comments made on the Instagram post but said the students had been disciplined. The details of the disciplinary action is confidential.

The parent of one Clayton High senior said she was worried about the implications of the incident.

“As a citizen, I’m worried. I’m worried that nobody is safe,” Kara Turner Newark said, adding that she worried about other religious groups, women and people of color being targets of similar acts.

Newark said she knew the students involved in posting the content that started the uproar and was surprised by their actions.

“In a democracy the right to free speech regardless of its content must be protected. Hate speech has always existed and unfortunately probably always will. But we are in a new era,” Newark said in a statement she read. “We hear about swastikas, Muslim registries, we are challenged with fake news and seemingly indifference to facts. We face more and more social isolation. This is why this moment is crucial.”

The School Board reminded parents that inclusiveness and trust are part of the district’s core values.

Randee Jacobs is not a parent in the district but said that as a Jewish person and a Clayton resident she felt obligated to attend the public hearing to show her support to others who are Jewish.

Jacobs said she believed that if the incident had targeted another ethnic, religious or racial group there would have been more people in attendance at the meeting, possibly even protests outside. The meeting drew about 30 people.

Superintendent Sean Doherty said the school was consulting with the Anti-Defamation League to address the issue, including perhaps curriculum and policy changes.

The school already has a health curriculum to address cyberbullying and best practices for maintaining good conduct online.

The incident comes just weeks after protests in the neighboring Ladue School District over racially charged incidents there.