Statement from Prosecutor Coffina concerning the discovery of swastikas and related hate speech in Marlton Middle School

Today, the second incident of anti-Semitic vandalism in the past three weeks was reported, this time with a swastika and “Hitler was right” written on a bathroom wall on consecutive days at Marlton Middle School.  The Evesham Township Police Department is investigating and the perpetrator, when identified, will face consequences for this vile act of hate.  Too many times this year, I’ve written, our local chiefs of police have written, and our elected officials have written, that “acts of hate will not be tolerated.”  This is true, they won’t be.  But there are limits on what law enforcement can do to address hate speech or even hateful conduct.  We can, and do, bring charges for harassment or bias intimidation when the facts support it.  The real solution, however, is simply to treat each other with civility and decency, which the volume of bias incidents that cross my desk indicates we are too often lacking.  Parents need to be parents and educate their children about how hurtful a swastika or a racial slur can be, with nothing really to gain for the person engaging in these hateful acts.  And adults need to be adults, and not let every traffic incident (for example) escalate to road rage, punctuated by a racial slur, which happens far too often.  We need to pause during a season that we characterize as one of “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” and commit to practicing what we preach.  Schools and houses of worship in particular should be oases for students and worshippers from the harsh realities we sometimes face outside of those walls, and should never be visited by acts of hate or intolerance.

We in law enforcement will continue to investigate reported bias incidents and bring appropriate charges when the evidence warrants.  But the answer to the swastikas written in a school bathroom or posted outside a synagogue, or to the casual use of racial slurs, is simply to act decently to one another, and to stand up and confront acts of hatred that are done to our neighbors because hatred, if unchecked, has a tendency to spread.

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