No Place for Hate?

San Marcos students and administration weigh in on different forms of hate and its effects


Sammy Pessin

Picture taken by Sammy Pessin, Freshman at SMHS, featuring “No Place For Hate” sign

A student wakes up on a Monday morning. They get ready, and head to school, and even though school isn’t their favorite, they’re excited to see their friends. They head to their first class, sit down, and start talking with the students around them. But as they are all talking, students behind them make jokes about hurtful stereotypes of this student’s race. Across campus, another student is at P.E and is running the mile. The student stops for a moment to tie their shoe, but another student dashes by and calls him an offensive slur against his religion, and the people behind him laugh. The bell rings, and another student heads to math class. But as they head up the stairs to the third floor, a group of students heading down are making fun of the students’ sexuality. Unfortunately, situations like these happen all the time. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana, Spanish Philosopher. History has taught us that hate is often a result of ignorance. One of the goals of San Marcos High School is to overcome this issue through education, respect, and embracing diversity.

There is still a great deal of work to be done as students still continue to experience hate speech on campus. This affects students’ ability to learn and the stress they feel in and out of the classroom. The school has taken action with its “No Place for Hate” promise and works daily to combat ignorance and support students. The school began working with the program in 2019 and at the beginning of the year, all students signed the No Place for Hate pledge. However, members of the San Marcos High community endure derogatory and harmful comments about their race, religion, sexual orientation, and more.

“Antisemitic comments that have been made towards me have affected me in school because it causes me to lose focus in class…It kind of gives me stress about coming to class because I’m worried that those people are going to continue to target me,” said junior Emily Pessin, a Jewish student at San Marcos High.

Pessin continued by explaining why she believes antisemitic actions occur. 

“I think that ignorance is a big factor in antisemitism. Obviously, people are ignorant and I think a lot of comments come from a place of ignorance, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t purposeful in what they’re saying. I think that when people make antisemitic comments, they are purposely trying to cause harm,” said Pessin.

She then added her opinions on why negativity towards Jewish people is so common and why it is increasing.

“I think many people don’t really have a relation to Judaism or Jewish people. There isn’t really a big community of Jewish people; we don’t make up that much of the world. So I think there’s like a lack of empathy because people don’t have that personal connection. I also think part of the reason is a lack of Holocaust education in school,” said Pessin.

Unfortunately, antisemitism affects many others on the San Marcos High campus like freshman Dylan Sobel.

 “[Antisemetic comments] are often really meant as a joke. But sometimes the joke is taken a little too far and is hurtful,” said Sobel

Insensitivity to the suffering faced by Jewish people can result in hurtful comments and remarks. Only 20 US states require holocaust education, and of those very little is required. For all who haven’t been properly educated, it is easy to believe anything others say.

“I think it’s a combination of celebrity influence and just ignorance because we aren’t really taught much about it [Holocaust Education]. So when like someone famous says something, it kind of just influences everyone and makes them believe that,” said Sobel.

Antisemitism is not the only form of hate speech students experience at San Marcos High. Principal Adam Dawson and the rest of the school admin tackle this issue on a regular basis.

“Well, it’s hard to narrow [the cause of hate] into one specific factor… I think the biggest thing is it comes from a place of ignorance, insensitivity, and a lack of empathy,” said Dawson.

Hate speech is often presented as a harmless joke, however to the individuals affected it has a much deeper impact.

“And I think that there is this notion that it’s either a joke or it’s, you know, ‘I’m not saying it to them, so they shouldn’t be offended.’ I think that there are all these excuses, and none of them are acceptable. None of them will we tolerate. But I think in general, it’s this overarching lack of empathy, lack of compassion, and ignorance that is causing students to say hateful things,” said Dawson.

There are ways that students can be exposed to hateful speech and false statements. One of the most impactful things is social media.

“I also think, unfortunately, it’s a desensitization and a normalization that we see from different social media outlets. So if you like certain pages, or are on YouTube, you’ll get more content that’s in alignment with your views. So you’re gonna continue to hear the same type of speech, the same type of language being used by all sorts of humans, right? Unfortunately, our young students are getting manipulated by these social media outlets,” said Dawson

Dawson and the rest of the San Marcos High admin have taken a strong stance against hate speech with a zero-tolerance policy.

“As an administration, we’re taking steps to bring more awareness to the negative impact that the hateful words and antisemitism has on our community. To say if things are getting better, it’s hard to quantify. I think what I’m proud of is when a student brings forth something that’s hate speech or something that’s on social media, we will immediately address it. We will be very transparent. We don’t tolerate hate speech because it deeply impacts negatively the culture and the community. And so with all things big picture, I hope that as a community, our students, our parents, and our staff know that we’re gonna intervene and take action against hate speech swiftly and bring awareness to the victims and the people who are hurt by that,” said Dawson.

Some of the ways that San Marcos High is taking action is by building stronger connections within the student body.

“So, you know, that we have been active in working towards a no place for hate and also, just building stronger community bonds. So I think the steps that we’ve been taking are implementing community building days, our RSVP process, our link crew, all of our different student leadership opportunities, it’s always to humanize each other,” said Dawson.

The school takes this a step further by focusing on and embracing the differences in unique qualities of everyone.

“We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different traditions, different experiences, that diversity is what makes us exceptional. Diversity should be embraced. It shouldn’t be something that we fear, diversity should be something that makes us so much more rich and loving and inspires us to do great things. We shouldn’t ever back down from it. And we should always celebrate it and recognize it. So I think ways that we’re doing this is we’re really promoting our cultural diversity,” said Dawson.

 All of these efforts towards building a community and appreciating diversity leads students to treat each other with greater respect.

“By getting to know one another on a human level, that’s how you break down and stop hurtful, harmful language… It’s because you’re humanizing each other and you’re building empathy…it truly goes back to just the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated. So I believe that that’s the model that we’re trying to impress upon our students and our staff. We have high expectations for our students and our staff. That’s why I ‘respect the realm’ is our foundation this year. It’s because without respect, without building that framework of an inclusive, safe environment, learning’s going to struggle. That’s why we have to start first with that basis of respect that all humans deserve to be dignified and respected. So that’s what we’re proud of,” said Dawson.