Hate Goes To School
Swastikas and Anti-Semitic Graffiti Found on Several School Walls
March 30, 2017
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Writing on bathroom walls has long been a form of expression by high school students, but recent graffiti at Langley — including swastikas and racial insults — have baffled administrators seeking a solution to the troubling rise in acts of hateful vandalism.
The vandalism, which occurred in February and March, follows a string of hate-based graffiti in schools around the country in recent months. According to Principal Fred Amico, “these incidents have involved anti-semitism, racist language, and some anti-gay actions.” Swastikas were drawn on classroom desks, bathroom stalls, hallways, and the parking lot. “I know these incidents are being committed by a very small minority of our students,” he added.
Most of the graffiti was removed by custodians as Principal Amico spoke to students about the importance of being respectful and tolerant of all during a morning announcement in which he reminded students that “we are a diverse school made up of students and staff from numerous countries, of varying races, religions, and sexual orientations.”
“We must and will be respectful and tolerant of our differences,” he said. “We value varying viewpoints and opinions when given in respectful discourse. We will not let ourselves be defined by the lowest denominator. We are better than that. Langley is a pluralistic society. As such, we will respect everyone.”
While the vandalism at Langley follows other hate-based acts around the country, it is the first reported incident in Fairfax County Public Schools, sparking concern from school officials, community members and parents.
Fairfax County School Board Member Ryan McElveen said, “the hateful graffiti that has appeared around Langley High School is despicable and does not represent the actions of the Fairfax County students that I know. The fact that individuals would vandalize the long-awaited renovated Langley building makes the actions all the more appalling.”
McElveen noted that “while these actions are disrespectful of the entire community, they present an opportunity to bring everyone together to affirm that Langley High School–like all of our schools–is a place of inclusion and love of everyone, no matter who they are.”
Schools are supposed to be safe places for students to learn free of bigotry and hatred. Unacceptable language in schools is disturbing and graffiti vandalism violates both school policy and the law. Students who commit such offenses are typically subject to disciplinary actions. “To me, it’s not about the punishment though,” said Principal Amico. “I don’t want people to not be hateful in school because of the punishment, but because it’s the wrong thing to do.”
According to School Resource Officer Mike Hunter, “it all starts with education. Students need to be informed about the meaning of these actions and understand that what they’re saying is hateful and offensive and targets a group of people.”
Principal Amico suggests students speak with their counselor, Assistant Principal, Officer Hunter, Mr. Rogers, Mrs. Williams, him, or any other adult in the building for support. In addition, he would like to have a local rabbi visit Langley to engage students in a discourse of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.
“Even one incident is too many,” said Assistant Principal Jim Robertson. “Once it happens once, it can happen again, and we need to stop that now.”
The hateful vandalism at Langley comes after the Southern Poverty Law Center cited 867 hate incidents were reported in the first 10 days after President Donald Trump’s election. They noted that ninety percent of the educators they surveyed “said the climate of their schools had been affected negatively by the election.”
The SPLC report also cited, “8 in 10 educators reported fears on the part of marginalized students including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT people. 4 in 10 heard derogatory language directed at minority students. More than 2,500 described instances of bigotry and harassment directly related to election rhetoric.” In his address before Congress, President Trump denounced racism and anti-Semitism of any kind, and vowed to be a leader for every American in an inclusive nation.
Concern with the rise in hate based vandalism in schools across the country has officials seeking solutions from psychologists and inter-faith community leaders who suggest communities unite in spreading a strong message of support and inclusivity.
*This article will be featured in the April issue of The Saxon Scope