Bay School Battles Racism, Hatred, Bigotry

BAY ST. LOUIS (WLOX)--"The Germans were hauling prayer books and shawls, and everything that was meaningful to the Jewish religion. They put it into a heap in front of the synagogue and they poured gasoline over it and torched it."

A Holocaust survivor shared a moving story of living in hiding and fear as a child, just because she was Jewish.

"Those who were sick, they were taken away," Levy said. "We, of course, know what happened to them. They were being shipped to the concentration camps."

Ann Levy was the featured speaker at a "Cultural Diversity Program" at St. Stanislaus. The private Bay St. Louis school recently encountered incidences that raised some concerns.

"There were different statements being made in and out of the classroom.  Just jokes being made that had racial overtones to them. There was some minor graffiti," said Campus Minister Ken France. "We felt that it wasn't hateful. It was just bad taste. And we just wanted to explain what was behind those words and those symbols."

Former FBI agent Andrew Nash talked about growing up as an African-American in Bay St. Louis.

"During the early 50's and 60's, Bay St. Louis was a very segregated community," he said.

Speakers talked about the challenges of being from a different racial, cultural or religious background.

"They had a school for the whites, they had a school for the blacks, but they had no schools for the Indians," said Francis Johnson, a representative from the Houma Nation.

The school urged the students to speak-up and stand-up against bias, bigotry, and racism.

"Stand up if you're willing to take a stand and defend other people," said Cathy Glaser, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"We hope they build a better world for all of us. A world of equality, justice, and peace," said France. "We need to recognize our differences, but respect those differences."

When students sign the "Speak-Up Pledge" on Friday, they will promise to say something if they hear hateful language, question those who promote bias, and spread the word against bigotry.

By: Trang Pham-Bui