The Central Bucks School District has expressed regret for the temporary removal of a historic quote on the Holocaust by author Elie Wiesel from the library at Central Bucks South.
“The district apologizes for any hurt or concerns this has caused, particularly for those in the Jewish community,” read a statement issued by the district on Wednesday.
The statement closed the loop on a situation that arose following passage of a new district policy forbidding “advocacy activities.”
It began when Central Bucks South High School librarian Marc Pecic, a 31-year district employee, placed a well-known quote from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel on the window of the school library.
He was told by his principal to remove the quote, which reads:
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
The quote is from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
The district maintains that Pecic was told to take it down or to “present the quote in conjunction with Mr. Wiesel’s book in order to promote educational inquiry and student interest in reading the novel.”
Following a meeting between the librarian, the principal and a teacher’s union representative, Pecic said he believed he would face “consequences” if he did not do as he was told, according to news reports.
Efforts to reach Pecic were unsuccessful.
The librarian complied and removed the quote. As word of the matter reached social media, the reaction was swift and harsh, with many in the community calling such action censorship.
The following day, the principal said the sign could be posted again. Pecic returned the sign to the library window and added many others, as well.
The district’s public relations firm, Devine and Partners, responded with a statement at the time.
“We regret that the decision was made to remove it,” the statement read in part.
The school district’s policy, which bans educators from engaging in “advocacy activities,” including placing a Pride flag in a classroom, has sparked protests from students, parents, CBSD staff and the larger community.
An influx of Jewish speakers came to the Feb. 7 school board meeting to voice concerns over the incident at CB South. Among them was Andrew Goretsky, Philadelphia’s regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“I am grateful this decision was rescinded,” Goretsky said. “But this mistake should not have happened, and it likely would never have occurred if not for this policy.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into the ACLU’s complaint against the Central Bucks School District alleging discrimination against LGBTQ+ students late last year.
The OCR is tasked with enforcing Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity where there’s federal funding.
Opening the investigation, the DOE stressed, “in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on their merits.”
Freelance writer Maximillian Driks contributed to this report.