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Catholic Memorial vows changes after ‘you killed Jesus!’ chant

BOSTON, MA - 2/12/2012: Catholic Memorial School, West Roxbury, Mass., Feb. 12, 2012. (John Phelan) ***By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18365176

John Phelan/file 2012

Administrators at Catholic Memorial School vowed to make changes after students made anti-Semitic chants during a basketball game Friday night against Newton North High School.

Catholic Memorial School administrators say they will hold a series of student assemblies Monday and make long-term changes to their curriculum after several students peppered fans of a rival school with anti-Semitic chants at a basketball game Friday night.

The students taunted a group of Newton North High School fans, many of them Jewish, with choruses of “You killed Jesus!”

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“Catholic Memorial is committed to using this incident as a teaching opportunity and to help students understand the hurt they have caused, to Newton North High School and the broader Jewish community,” Catholic Memorial said in a statement Sunday night.

Catholic Memorial reached out to the Anti-Defamation League Saturday to apologize for the incident and seek assistance in educating their students about anti-Semitism, according to the statement.

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“It’s very clear that Catholic Memorial is taking this seriously, and we’re very pleased about both the short-term and long-term commitment to educating their students,” said Robert Trestan, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League New England, in a phone interview Sunday.

Trestan said the ADL and the Archdiocese of Boston developed a curriculum more than 20 years ago called “New Directions” for Catholic educators to use in teaching their students about Jews and Judaism.

He said the ADL could help to implement that curriculum at Catholic Memorial, an independent school in West Roxbury. Officials at the school said that curriculum is among the options they are considering.

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David A. Fleishman, superintendent of the Newton Public Schools, said in a phone interview Sunday that his district will use the incident to evaluate its own culture.

Newton North interim principal Mark Aronson will address the entire school by loudspeaker during first period Monday morning, Fleishman said, reminding students about the effects of their language.

Newton students chanted “sausagefest” at fans of the all-boys Catholic Memorial Friday.

“While there were different interpretations of what our students chanted, some perceived it as homophobic,” Fleishman said. “Regardless of intent, it’s impact that matters.”

The back-and-forth at the basketball game, which was held at Newton South High School, came amid heightened concerns about tolerance locally and nationally.

Black students at Boston Latin School have complained of harassment and discrimination at the prestigious school, and US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has announced that she will investigate.

In Newton, three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti were reported in recent months at F.A. Day Middle School, including a swastika imprinted in the snow and the words “Burn the Jews” scrawled on the walls of a boys’ bathroom.

‘We’re very pleased about both the short-term and long-term commitment to educating their students.’

Robert Trestan, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League New England, on Catholic Memorial 
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The presidential campaign, meanwhile, has brought heated debates about the Black Lives Matter movement and immigration.

“In this climate, I think it’s more important than ever that we address these issues,” said Fleishman, calling the incident at the basketball game “a real learning opportunity.”

Aronson, the Newton North interim principal, plans to send an e-mail to parents about the incident at the end of the day Monday and to address faculty in a meeting Tuesday.

The “You killed Jesus!” chant came before the Division 1 South Final game between the two schools even started. Catholic Memorial administrators put a stop to it and the students were reprimanded, each personally apologizing to Aronson and shaking his hand.

Peter F. Folan, the Catholic Memorial president, released a statement Saturday condemning the students’ “abhorrent behavior.”

“Catholic Memorial School believes deeply that intolerance, of any kind, is unacceptable,” he said. “We apologize for the actions of our students and we will continue to strenuously address this issue within our community.”

Catholic Memorial administrators plan to meet with faculty Monday morning to discuss the incident, and then with students grade by grade. The school will hold an open forum after school for students who wish to voice concerns and ask questions.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe
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