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Three swastikas found at high school in Boxford

A vandal at the University of Massachusetts Amherst scrawled a swastika and homophobic slurs on a dorm room door on Tuesday, the latest in a recent spate of hate and bias incidents across the region.

“Earlier today, a student in John Quincy Adams residence hall was targeted when the door to the student’s room was defaced with homophobic and transphobic slurs and a swastika,” chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy wrote in a letter sent to the campus community Tuesday.

The incident came one week after a poster in another dorm was defaced with a racial slur, and fliers and stickers from a white nationalist group appeared on campus.


The graffiti written on the student’s door represented “an assault on all transgender, gay, and Jewish members of our community and are clearly intended to intimidate,” Subbaswamy wrote.

“Let us not be intimidated,” he wrote. “We must stand united in opposition to such ignorance and hatred and remain firm in our commitment to fostering a community of caring, inclusion, and tolerance.”

In Boxford, meanwhile, drawings of three Nazi symbols were found in the high school boys bathroom over the past two weeks, school officials said.

“As you may have seen in the news recently, several area schools have been dealing with vandalism or written notes with hate themes,” Peter Delani, the principal of Masconomet Regional High School, wrote in a message sent to parents Wednesday. “Though graffiti can be removed, the effects of those images can have lasting impacts on those who observe them.”

In Reading, more than 30 incidents of swastikas and other racist graffiti have been reported since May 2017, mostly at the town’s high school. A handful of swastikas have also been reported at local middle schools, and one such symbol was found drawn in red ink on furniture at the town library in October 2017.


The incidents come amid a rise in reported hate crimes, both nationally and in Massachusetts. The FBI reported Tuesday that hate crimes nationally jumped 17 percent last year, while the number of incidents in Massachusetts rose 9 percent. Nearly 900 more law enforcement agencies submitted data on hate crimes last year, the FBI noted.

In recent days, two offensive letters were found in a Muslim student’s storage bin at an elementary school in Framingham. One note called the fifth-grader a “terrorist,” and the other threatened her life. At Malden High School, a swastika was found etched in an elevator on Nov. 5, and swastikas were found inside bathrooms at a middle school in Melrose around the same time.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the increase in hate crimes “provides further evidence that more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America. That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate whenever it occurs.”

Meanwhile, officials at the College of the Holy Cross are investigating a reported attack against a student that was apparently motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation. The attack reportedly happened on campus between 2 and 3 a.m. on Oct. 27, college officials said. The victim did not know the assailant.

“To say that this incident is disturbing is an understatement,” dean of students Michele Murray wrote in an advisory to students. “I know you join me in denouncing this appalling behavior.”


Investigators had conducted numerous interviews and watched hours of security video, officials said. The college canceled classes on Friday to host a campuswide event called “ENGAGE Summit: Where Do We Go From Here?”

The summit will offer a number of workshops and discussions regarding “the steps we need to take to build a community that supports and celebrates all its members,” the Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, the college’s president, wrote in a message to the campus community last week.

A Holy Cross spokesman said the event is “not solely in response to only one particular incident, but also to the growing number of instances of hate and bias we’re seeing in the world outside Holy Cross, as well.”

Cristela Guerra of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.