Photo: Chenery Middle School.
Every class at Chenery Middle School will spend a portion of the Wednesday, Nov. 21 school day to address the discovery of racist and homophobic graffiti in one of the building’s bathrooms.
In correspondence to parents sent on Tuesday, Nov. 20, Chenery Principal Michael McAllister said the profane and offensive markings were found last week in a first-floor bathroom by staff. McAllister said he was “stunned” finding “[r]acist language, homophobic language, and profane language adorned the side wall and the mirror.”
“[I]t was difficult to read such hateful language,” said McAllister.
Hate graffiti has been on the increase at nearby school districts. Reading Memorial High School has been plagued by someone who has been drawing swastikas more than 30 times in the past year and a half with eight in the past few weeks. Malden High School, Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School and middle schools in Reading have recently seen this sort of vile vandalism. A recent study by the Anti-Defamation League reported that hate crimes at all schools that includes graffiti have increased by more than 100 percent in the past year.
But for McAllister, until last week’s incident, “Belmont had been the exception.” McAllister said despite an ongoing investigation, no one has been identified “responsible for such vitriolic language and disregard for the values we hold as a school community.”
McAlister said while the “culprit” may be hard to identify, the school will have a substantial response. “In times like these, we are reminded of the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr that, ‘We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,'” wrote McAlister.
“We cannot simply do nothing. As your school leader, I cannot let this incident be swept under the proverbial rug. A statement needs to be made that we are not a community that will simply let this kind of thing slide,” said McAlister.
On Wednesday, students will remain in their homerooms as teachers will review the facts of the incident. Educators will start a conversation with the students, emphasizing how the hate vandalism impacts each pupil and what message should be sent to the student who wrote the graffiti with the aim to show students the large-scale impact of a single action.
Responses will be written and posted throughout the school, especially in the bathroom in which the hate occurred.
“As one colleague stated, ‘We could post words of hope on that same wall where there were once words of hate. We can take back that wall,'” said McAlister.
“We remind students every day in our school motto that we are all expected to be “Respectful, Responsible, and Ready to learn.” Actions like that clearly violate the expectation of respect. Actions like that violate the responsibility we must all feel towards each other in a community. Actions like that impact our ability to learn with a free and open mind, forcing us to focus on protecting ourselves from threats before all else,” said McAlister.