Swastikas found on John Philip Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington

John Valenti and Robert Brodsky

April 26, 2021

Originally published in Newsday on April 26, 2021.

Police are investigating after two swastikas were found spray painted on the facades of a Port Washington elementary school Sunday night.

Port Washington Union Free School District Superintendent Michael Hynes confirmed the incident in an open letter to the community Sunday, reporting the discovery of the graffiti on "the front and rear facades" of the John Philip Sousa Elementary School on Sands Point Road.

Both the Port Washington police and Nassau County police were notified, Hynes wrote.

Nassau police Monday referred all inquiries to Port Washington police which issued a statement confirming the investigation.

"Port Washington detectives are investigating in partnership with school officials, the Nassau County Police Department and the Hate Crimes Unit of the Nassau County District Attorney's Office," Port Washington police said. "Hatred, bigotry and intolerance have no place in our community. The PWPD pledges to aggressively pursue the person(s) responsible and bring them to justice."

Chief Thomas Ruehle of the neighboring Sands Point Police Department confirmed his officers have increased patrols in the area surrounding The Community Synagogue, which is not far from the elementary school, adding: "Although, we are constantly checking and driving the property when there aren't situations like this."

In an email correspondence, officials at The Community Synagogue said they were "deeply saddened and angry" at the act of anti-Semitism.

In his email to the community, Hynes said the district had taken "the necessary steps" to ensure any images were removed from the school's exterior walls before the arrival of students Monday.

He added: "The Port Washington School District and its educators are committed to creating an inclusive environment where our students are taught and encouraged to treat all people with kindness and respect."

Hynes noted that the district partners with the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove and parents and community groups to "continue educating our students on the lasting damage from symbols of hate."

State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills) issued a statement Monday condemning the vandalism and saying : "Hatred and anti-Semitism will never be welcome in our community, and its incumbent on us all to speak out forcefully and unequivocally against it whenever we encounter it.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth released a statement saying: "The rise of hate crimes throughout the country is extremely upsetting, and it becomes even more upsetting when something offensive like this occurs in our own backyard."

Anyone with information on the vandalism is asked to call the Port Washington Police Department at 516-883-0500 or email tips@pwpd.ny.gov.