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After the discovery of more offensive graffiti, Danvers says it will stop informing public of hate speech

Danvers community members held a vigil in November in response to the discovery of antisemitic graffiti at a local middle school in the wake of a Globe report that detailed how school officials fought to hide a report about misconduct on the high school boys' hockey team.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

They put a stop to transparency about incidents of hate speech in Danvers Monday, as town officials reported yet another case of offensive graffiti and said they no longer will inform the public about such discriminatory practices.

In the latest incident, a resident reported finding homophobic graffiti at a softball field on Pickering Street. Numerous similar incidents have occurred in Danvers since early November, despite efforts by community leaders and town officials to curb hate speech.

The North Shore community has become a focus of state officials and human rights leaders amid the wave of graffiti incidents after a Globe report that police and school officials there had concealed for more than 16 months alleged violent racist, homophobic, and antisemitic misconduct by members of the 2019-20 high school boys’ varsity hockey team.


“On a moving forward basis, the town will no longer issue statement after statement every time a similar incident is discovered and/or reported,” town leaders said in a prepared statement. “Our fear is that the constant attention created by doing so is simply encouraging more of the same, which in some cases simply may be attention seeking and in others truly may be statements of hate intended to do harm.”

The statement was issued by Steve Bartha, the town manager; Gardner Trask, chair of the select board; Dutrochet Djoko, chair of the town human rights and inclusion committee; James Lovell, the police chief; Lisa Dana, the school superintendent; and Eric Crane, chair of the School Committee.

They did not say if or when they will stop withholding information about hate speech from the public.

“We will continue to document and investigate these incidents, communicate them to the appropriate authorities and local boards or committees, including the Human Rights & Inclusion Committee, work with all parties involved, and take appropriate actions depending on the circumstances,” the statement said.


Town officials said they will “continue to process these incidents, in partnership with Danvers Public Schools, the District Attorney’s Office, the individuals, and their families.”

Last week, a swastika was found drawn in a bathroom at Danvers High School. Previously, swastikas were found on two separate occasions on a bathroom wall at the Holten Richmond Middle School.

In addition, the high school wrestling team was suspended indefinitely after a team member allegedly used racist language, triggering a fight with another student, and school officials discovered a team group Snapchat with “references to hazing and hateful and biased language.”

Town officials have expressed frustration at the recurring incidents and the perception it has created about the community.

“We have a great deal of work to do toward building relationships, engaging in meaningful dialogue, and recognizing that every individual is worthy of respect,” their statement said. “We will need the help of community leaders, civic groups, and all individuals with a commitment to working together toward a common goal of abolishing hatred, learning to celebrate diversity, and simply being kind to one another.”

They said the town has enlisted help from the Lappin Foundation in Salem, the Anti-Defamation League of Boston, the Essex County Community Foundation, the North Shore NAACP, and others. The town also is recruiting its first director of equity and inclusion.

The statement also referred to steps the school department has taken to try to address the problem. The initiatives were presented at last week’s meeting of the human rights and inclusion committee.


Bob Hohler can be reached at robert.hohler@globe.com.