Jewish headstones were toppled in cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania in recent weeks. This week, Jewish schools in Florida also have received automated bomb threats.
In all, more than 70 bomb threats have been called in to Jewish institutions since January, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
According to data from the Virginia State Police, anti-Semitic acts are the most common hate crimes motivated by religion in the commonwealth.
“There’s something very wrong in our national climate when hateful individuals feel empowered to threaten our children like this,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) wrote in a statement. “This recent wave of anti-Semitism is cowardly, it’s disgusting, and we must make it clear that we as Virginians unequivocally reject it.”
Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, head of the Charles E. Smith school, said in an interview that recent threats at other schools led his administration to be more vigilant.
“Given what’s been going on around the country, we were very well prepared,” he said. “We knew exactly what to do.”
Malkus said police arrived less than five minutes after the school notified them about the threat.
He said that the perpetrators’ goal appears to have been to “raise tension and anxiety in the community, and unfortunately that’s what happens when you have these threats.”
Malkus noted that dozens of Jewish institutions have had similar experiences.
“There’s been a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents and threats in the Jewish community over the last year, and I believe that’s directly attributable to the political climate that exists in our country,” Malkus said.
He noted that President Trump last week addressed the recent rise in hate messaging against Jewish groups and condemned the vandalism of Jewish graves.
“I do welcome what the president said,” Malkus said. “He wants to make sure these incidents do not continue. I would like to see more of that in a clearer message.”
House panel OKs requiring teachers to pass a skills test
Different standards » Graduates of education program would have to pass the test but teachers using alternative route would get two years without taking it.
A bill requiring the equivalent of a board exam for Utah teachers passed a House committee on Monday after a lengthy debate.
The proposal was approved by the Senate earlier this month in a 22-3 vote. But it split the Republican members of the House Education Committee and would have failed if not for supporting votes by the committee’s two Democrats.
Sponsored by Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, SB78 would require graduates of a university education
program to pass a test of pedagogical skills — such as lesson planning and classroom management — prior to obtaining a teaching license.
Teachers who enter the profession through an alternative route, like the new Academic Pathway to Teacher, would be required to complete the pedagogical assessment before their third year in the classroom.
“At some point in time,” Millner said, “they’ve got to reach the same standards as any other teacher.”
Committee members discussed several areas of concern in the bill, including the disparate treatment for traditional and alternative teaching routes and the financial burden the test would place on educators.
SB78 does not fund the cost of taking the test, which is estimated to cost up to $300 per teacher, or a combined cost of $1 million each year.
Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, said the intent of the bill is good, but it comes at a time when the state is struggling to hire and retain public school educators.
“It’s another hoop,” he said. “It’s an additional expense.”
And Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, questioned why educators trained in a traditional program would be held to a standard that their alternative peers do not have to reach for up to three years.
“We’re requiring those college [education] graduates to be so much better prepared compared to someone with no preparation at all,” she said.
Millner said the bill is intended to respect alternate licensure routes created by the Utah Board of Education, which allow individuals with content knowledge to teach in classrooms without formal teaching training.
She said the bill would ensure that all teachers have both the content knowledge and classroom skills to effectively educate children.
“Change is difficult,” she said. “But I think we all should want effectively prepared teachers in all of our classrooms.”
The committee ultimately voted 6-4 to approve the bill, which will now advance to the full House for consideration.