Middle-school dean quits after antisemitic death threat


(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — The dean of students for a Michigan middle school has resigned following an antisemitic death threat made against him and his family.

This was one of three threats that centered around Richmond Community Schools in January alone, according to local media reports.

According to a letter from Richmond Community Schools Superintendent Brian Walmsley, a newly hired dean was specifically targeted in a threat received on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Not counting the holiday break, the now-former dean, who had started on Dec. 13, 2022, had worked in the district for less than nine school days.

For the dean, the position had been “a dream job,” Walmsley said in a letter to parents and guardians dated Jan. 8, 2023.

The superintendent told NewsNation that even with only a few days under his belt, the dean had “thrived” on helping kids understand how to make better choices, and had spent time developing relationships with parents and children alike. Even when the dean had to discipline students, Walmsley said, they understood, and their parents were supportive.

“There was no indication, and I still don’t have any indication, that there was anything that was problematic,” Walmsley said. “And that’s the frustrating part of this whole thing. … I look at a gentleman who has the excitement, the aspiration to be the best he can be. I was excited for him to be on our team. … And I’m sad for him because he had to experience this.”

As of Jan. 19, police had not made any arrests, but there is an active investigation. Calls to Richmond Police Chief Tom Costello were not immediately returned Wednesday. But in another letter to families, Walmsley said Costello told the district it would not be a quick investigation — and there’s a possibility the case may not be solved.

WDIV reported that the school went into lockdown, and was closed for the remainder of the week, after the death threat was found. School had already been canceled that Tuesday to let new hires organize and prepare for students to return from break.

“The threatening note, security camera footage, and door access digital records have all been turned over to the police,” Walmsley said. “The district will insist the individual or individuals involved with leaving this threatening note be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This is beyond comprehension that someone would threaten the safety of an employee and their family.”

The former dean of students could not be reached for comment by NewsNation, and declined comment to the Detroit Jewish News.

Although the city of Richmond is economically diverse, it is less so in other aspects, Walmsley said. But the antisemitic threat is “not a reflection of who our community is,” he added.

Walmsley said Richmond Community Schools is working with several Jewish organizations that have provided them with resources to help educate staff and students.

Steven Ingber, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, said in a statement to the Detroit Jewish News that the incident at Richmond Community Schools is “disturbing and yet another reminder of the prevalence of antisemitism in our society today.”

“As soon as the Jewish Federation was made aware of the situation, we reached out to the school district and conveyed our support for the victim and his family,” Ingber said.

MLive reports that there was a threat made to a second employee as well on Friday, Jan. 6, though it is unclear if that email also contained antisemitic remarks. And according to The Detroit News, a third threat targeting Richmond Community Schools caused the district to close once again on Jan. 12.

The day before, the newspaper wrote, the Richmond Middle School principal got a notification from the Michigan OK2SAY safety program that a student would go to campus “with a gun and is not afraid to use it.” Schools were opened on Jan. 13, WBIV reported, after police determined the threat was not substantiated.

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