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Framingham mayor ‘frustrated and angry’ after charter school students post anti-Semitic messages

Students at a Framingham charter school recently engaged in “anti-Semitic social media activity,” and the school on Tuesday held “grade-level safety meetings” to address the issue, officials said.

The Christa McAuliffe Charter School, which describes itself as “an Expeditionary Learning school for grades six through eight,” confirmed over the weekend that the bigoted online postings had surfaced.

“This evening I and other McAuliffe leaders became aware of anti-Semitic social media activity involving McAuliffe students,” said Kristin Harrison, the school’s executive director, in a statement posted Sunday to Facebook. “As soon as we found out, we reached out to Framingham police and have been told there’s an investigation underway. We will be in touch with the McAuliffe community as we learn more about this incident. Needless to say, our community does not tolerate this type of behavior.”

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Then on Tuesday, the school provided an update via Facebook.

“To follow up on the anti-semitic and threatening social media exchange that took place over the weekend, McAuliffe students and faculty participated in grade-level safety meetings today,” the statement said. “Students learned about the incident, had a chance to ask questions, and began to consider ways to take a stand against hatred and build the most trusting, safe, and inclusive community that we can.”

The incident involving the McAuliffe students came roughly a year after a 10-year-old Muslim girl enrolled at Hemenway Elementary School in Framingham was called a terrorist and received a death threat in letters found in her cubby at school.

Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer said Wednesday in a phone interview that such incidents are disheartening.

“I’m at a point where I’m feeling pretty frustrated and angry about it,” Spicer said. “ ... We need to stand together and combat this hate,” which “is not acceptable in this community.”

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She said city officials are working with faith leaders and other stakeholders to counter any prejudicial acts.

“We’re better than some of these incidents demonstrate,” Spicer said. “ ... I look forward to working with our parent community, our business leaders, and different spiritual groups to address this challenge.”

Framingham, Spicer said, is a “wonderful community” with residents from a number of different countries.

“That is a plus for our city,” Spicer said, adding that she believes “in the people of Framingham.”

The mayor was even more emphatic in a follow-up statement released by her office.

“ENOUGH!,” Spicer said in the statement. “I’ve had enough! You should be fed up too! I’m angry! I’m disappointed, and I’m exhausted with the constant attacks on our residents. We will not stand for this any longer!”

As mayor, Spicer said, “I’ve responded to numerous events of racism, islamophobia, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. It’s not enough to have vigils, prayer services, and condolence statements. We need action!”

Spicer said her city must “stand together to combat this hate. We must call out those who wish to live in a world inhabited only by people who think and look like them. Diversity makes us stronger. We are most powerful when we embrace our differences and use our gifts to enhance the lives of all.”

The mayor added that she’s spent “the last few days recapping the events of this weekend that demonstrate intolerance, ignorance, and hatred. We are better than that in the City of Framingham. We must make unacceptable behavior unacceptable. I stand firmly in my resolve to work with spiritual leaders, advocacy groups, schools, businesses and parents to stomp out hatred.”

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McAuliffe’s website, meanwhile, describes a school community standing in stark contrast to the reported anti-Semitic online activity.

“McAuliffe’s hands-on curriculum inspires high achievement through active learning, character growth, and teamwork,” the site says. “McAuliffe is a diverse community of engaged, motivated learners — scholars and adults alike. At McAuliffe, scholars take ownership of their learning, guided by creative, passionate adults who navigate the balancing act of challenge and support. Our community values independence and individuality, while practicing collaboration, inclusivity, and acceptance.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.