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‘Repulsive anti-gay language’ found in Needham school bathrooms, principal says

By Globe Staff 

Needham High School officials have discovered “repulsive anti-gay language and a gay slur” written in bathrooms in the building, the principal disclosed to parents and students Thursday.

The announcement from Principal Aaron Sicotte came two days after he told parents in a letter that the “N word” was found scrawled on a wall in two boys’ bathrooms during the past month.

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His follow-up message, which was obtained by the Globe, to students and parents about the anti-gay graffiti did not specify which bathrooms the hate speech was found in or when school officials discovered the disturbing messages.

“This incident is an offensive illustration of the reality that racism is not the only issue we are dealing with at NHS,” Sicotte wrote in his strongly worded letter. “Our LGBTQ staff and students routinely face homophobia and a lack of the comfort and acceptance that heterosexuals feel in our building. Our Jewish and Muslim students are also often targeted. This unfortunate list continues through every minority group at Needham High School.”

The principal cited statistics showing a high percentage of gay and transgender students nationwide face harassment in schools, and he vowed to work with the Needham High community to tackle the issue on campus, writing that “the work continues for us all.”

“The graffiti we’ve discovered recently in these bathrooms is hate speech,” Sicotte wrote. “We need to call it what it is. And we must continue our work against it. Each of us, everyday. It can not and will not be tolerated in this environment because as soon as it is, people are less safe and less able to focus on the learning we are all here for. No group should feel unwelcome or unsafe here.”

He said the school has “tremendous work to do” but in recent years has also “done some great work to create a safe and respectful environment for all. These recent incidents are emphasizing that we have a lot of work ahead of us still. It is necessary work to ensure these hateful, hurtful, and offensive language and experiences are not happening for our students and staff.”

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A voicemail message seeking further comment was left for Sicotte.

Earlier this week, he strongly condemned the racist graffiti in the boys’ restrooms.

“When racist slurs are written on our walls, we are not a safe place,” Sicotte wrote in the earlier letter, which the Globe also obtained.

He said “racist slurs — or any language that demeans or degrades others — have no place in Needham High School or anywhere in the Needham Public Schools.” The principal also expressed confidence that “hateful language written on our walls does not represent the values of the vast majority of students or the broader Needham community.”


Danny McDonald of the Globe Staff contributed to this report Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.