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Authorities investigate second incident of hate speech found at Danvers middle school

For the second time in two weeks, a swastika has been found in a student bathroom at the Holten-Richmond Middle School in Danvers, the school district said Thursday.

Students discovered the Nazi symbol and immediately reported it to school officials, Superintendent Lisa Dana said in a letter to the Danvers Public Schools community.

Hateful and discriminatory behavior has “no place” in the school district, Dana wrote, pledging a swift investigation to identify who is responsible.

“We condemn this hate crime and want to be clear that this type of hateful and discriminatory behavior has no place at Holten-Richmond Middle School or in any Danvers public school,” Dana wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe.


Danvers police and school officials are investigating, Dana wrote.

The district “will take appropriate disciplinary and/or legal action in addition to providing counseling and therapeutic support,” she said.

The discovery of the graffiti on Thursday came after a swastika was found in a school bathroom on Nov. 9, and two days after Dana and the Danvers School Committee issued a statement acknowledging that they “fell short” in their public response to allegations of violent, racist, and homophobic misconduct involving the 2019-20 boys’ varsity high school hockey team at Danvers High School.

In her letter, Dana said she was proud of the students who reported the graffiti found on Thursday. “This is the behavior we have been encouraging with our students and are pleased to see them implementing what they have been taught,” she wrote.

School officials had already taken disciplinary action after racist, homophobic, and antisemitic graffiti was found in a bathroom at the school last week, Dana said.

School officials will hold team meetings Friday to educate students about the significance of the swastika and what it symbolizes. Content provided from the Anti-Defamation League will be used to teach students the significance of the hate symbol in both a historical and modern context, Dana wrote.


The student training comes amid a turbulent time for the North Shore community. Earlier this month, the Globe reported on hazing allegations against the Danvers High School hockey team, and school officials’ attempts to conceal the results of town investigations from the public.

In recent weeks, Dana and School Committee members have been severely criticized for their public response to the alleged misconduct, which included players shouting racial and homophobic slurs in the locker room.

Officials have said they were limited as to how much of the investigatory findings they could reveal, citing a legal obligation to protect the privacy of students and staff.

“We are committed to doing better in the future in our timely and responsive communications to our school community, while also upholding the rights of privacy to which individuals are legally entitled,” school officials said in a statement released earlier this week.

Amid the public furor over the incidents, the town is scheduled to take a step toward healing this weekend.

A “Vigil for Prayerful Witness and Healing” is planned for Saturday, 4:30 p.m., at the town library’s gazebo on Sylvan Street. The Danvers Town Human Rights and Inclusion Committee and the Danvers Interfaith Partnership are cosponsoring the vigil, according to a Facebook post.

“Join us in love,” said the Rev. Marya DeCarlen, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, in a video announcing the vigil. “When our community gathers in love, and prays in vigil, together for healing amidst racist, homophobic and antisemitic behaviors and graffiti found in our Danvers High School and middle school.”


Adam Sennott can be reached at adam.sennott@globe.com.