At most high schools, students might expect to find graffiti of male and female anatomy, but Webster’s walls also have symbols and sayings of hate popping up.
The administration said via email, “Graffiti at the school is infrequent, but exists. While principal Jon Clark has expressed concern in his emails about the incidents of discriminatory graffiti, not all graffiti is discriminatory. However, it is still vandalism, hurtful, inappropriate, and can be costly to remove.”
An unidentified student digitally made a swastika out of another student’s face on social media.
The swastika, which originally represented religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, was taken over by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The swastika became the symbol of the Nazis, a symbol of extreme hatred and oppression to many Jews.
The administration communicated to parents details of the vandalism, which was then covered by news media.
About the incident, senior Leor Shomroni said, “I don’t like when people call it ‘graffiti’ or ‘vandalism’ because it’s way worse than cuss words or penises. I want people to just call it what it is-swastika.”
On Dec. 5, the administration sent emails and made an announcement about the swastika incident. Included in this was this excerpt from the Equity Resolution.
The Equity Resolution, which has been around since 2001, states, “We believe we must directly confront issues of bias and social injustice in order to eliminate the inequitable practices and unsafe environments these issues create for everyone.”
Some students believe the school has not dealt with previous social injustice issues this way.
Shomroni said, “My mom said the only reason the school acted on it was because it was on the news.”
About the issue, the administration said, “In addition, Dr. Clark has sent emails regarding this issue to parents, staff and students. It was an email from Dr. Clark to parents that was referenced in the recent Webster Kirkwood Times in the article about this issue. The recent news reports were also in response to the latest email that Dr. Clark sent on Dec. 4. So, we were bringing attention to this issue before the media gave it attention. Being transparent about this issue is extremely important. At first, it might make us look like we have a bigger problem than other schools. However, we feel that we are addressing this issue head on and will continue to explore ways that we can do it even better.”
The swastikas haven’t been the only type of racism to appear. A few months ago, Thespian officer of diversity recruitment for the drama department, junior Trinity Madison, put up posters around the school that defined persons of color as “Excellent, Beautiful, Empowered, Captivating, Flawless.” The posters were made to encourage students of color. One of the posters was defaced with the words, “white power, white power.”
About the defacement of the posters, Madison said, “It was extremely upsetting to me because the poster wasn’t disrespectful to white people, and there wasn’t a logical reason to deface it. The administration, who originally were excited for me to put up the flyers, and signed off on everything, ordered me to take all the posters down. They told me that the posters were only going to cause more trouble.”
About solving the issue, the administration said, “We have asked for student help to stop the vandalism and hate speech. Students are key in resolving this. Having discriminatory graffiti does not promote inclusiveness or the feeling of everyone being valued. It can create fear, anxiety and anger. We are specifically asking students to report hate speech as soon as they see it or hear it… We also established a student group that has been trained by the Anti-Defamation League to lead discussions on bias in classrooms. They have been working on their presentations and will start visiting classrooms at the beginning of second semester. We hope that this will heighten students’ awareness of the destructive impact of bias on our school community and in our society.”
Madison added, “Racism and hatred and bullying show up in our school in many different forms too often. When I found out about the swastikas, I was outraged, but not surprised. These things need to end…The school keeps ‘handling’ these things in a certain way and then they happen again. You can’t keep putting bandaids on broken bones and be surprised that the bone doesn’t heal.”
Visit Our Sponsors