The teachers who lead three culturally based clubs at Hightstown High School are convinced that the burning of a Sikh student’s turban earlier this month was not a hate crime.
Wilson Hernandez, faculty advisor for the Adelante Club and Jewish Student Union, and Marilyn Jose, faculty advisor for the South Asian American Club, said Wednesday that the consensus throughout the school is the victim was not targeted for his religious beliefs.
On May 5, Garrett Green, 18, a senior at the high school, was charged by borough police with arson and criminal mischief for allegedly lighting a 16-year-old’s turban on fire with a cigarette lighter during a fire drill. On May 14, just before Mr. Green’s arraignment in Municipal Court, police added charges of bias intimidation and aggravated assault.
”When this student was flicking his cigarette lighter all over the place it was nothing more than a lack of impulse control,” Ms. Jose, who did not witness the incident, said. “None of us believe it was a hate crime, especially the kids.”
The family of the victim could not be reached for comment Thursday. But his uncle previously said his nephew was “shocked” and “angry,” and that it is up to the justice system to determine the appropriate criminal findings.