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Long Island Lawmakers Say Students Need To Be Taught About Swastika, Noose As Hate Symbols

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Lawmakers in Nassau County are targeting an increase in hate crimes.

They're unveiling new legislation to better teach the meaning of hate symbols like the swastika and the noose, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday.

Swastika Vandalism
Seven swastikas drawn in purple marker were found in Theodore Roosevelt Park on West End Drive in Oyster Bay, N.Y. (credit: Nassau County Police Department)

It has been a bad year for hate crimes on Long Island and in New York City.

In Nassau alone, there have already been 44 incidents this year, compared to 20 at this time last year.

In response, lawmakers said they can do a better job teaching young people about hate symbols that are essentially shorthand for racism and anti-Semitism.

"As we stand here in 2019 having to discussing nooses and swastikas, we have to wonder how we got to this place, but we know that we need to do a lot more," state Sen. Todd Kaminsky.

Just last week, seven swastikas were scrawled on a pavilion in an Oyster Bay park, and nooses have been made visible in the work place and beyond.

Surprisingly, there is nothing in the school curriculum in New York that specifically requires teachers to discuss the meaning and history of these symbols.

"Although we do talk about it in school, it's very vague," high school rising senior Kirandeep Laloy said.

"No, there isn't a mandated, students must know where these symbols come from and why we designated them as hate speech," added John Buglione, a social studies teacher at Baldwin High School.

And now there's a push to change that.

A bill will be introduced in the state Legislature that will require the swastika and noose symbols to be specifically discussed in middle school and high school.

"A lot of the young offenders that we deal with in the DA's office, when we ask them why it is they painted that or drew that and what it means to them, they often can't even tell us what it means. They don't know. That's what really prompted this, because if we can educate our youngsters about the pernicious nature of these symbols and those acts will decrease," Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

Watch: Long Island Lawmakers Call For Swastika, Noose Hate Symbol Education:

Lawmakers gathered with leaders from the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, calling the use of the symbols "a crisis on our hands."

"This bill will go a long way because today we are teaching our children after the fact, after the infraction," said Tracey Edwards of the NAACP.

They believe part of the solution is better education before a crime is committed, rather than afterwards.

But can sensitivity be taught? The Holocaust Center of Nassau County does it by teaching students the impact of symbols of hate, and the horrific history they represent.

The bill will be introduced in the state Legislature in January.

The reward for information leading to an arrest in the Oyster bay swastika case stands at $20,000.

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