A student found racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic graffiti in a bathroom at Needham High School on Tuesday morning, the principal said.
In an e-mail addressed to the Needham High School community, principal Aaron Sicotte wrote that the graffiti “consisted of a homophobic statement, a swastika, and the N word all in close proximity” that was carved into a stall in a boys’ bathroom at the high school.
“It appears to have been carved by the same person,” Sicotte wrote. “We are investigating the incident fully and are working closely with the Needham Police, and we will pursue all available options for appropriate discipline.”
Sicotte commended the student who reported the graffiti to a teacher, who then brought it to his attention. He wrote that “both acted quickly and exactly as each person should in a situation like this.”
“In order for us to achieve the kind of community for which we are all striving, we need each person to contribute their part,” he wrote. “Coming forward to report offensiveness like this is a great example of actively stepping forward. I appreciate all of the times students report concerning items and the many times each day a student says to a friend that something shouldn’t be done or said. Those can be hard moments, but they highlight the depth of character of so many of our students and the essence of what make NHS the strong community it is. We have incredible students and adults in this building, and offensive behavior like this does not reflect who we truly are.”
Sicotte said the school’s guidance department will be available for any student who would like support “processing this graffiti and the impact of it.”
“This behavior is completely counter to our value of creating a caring community at Needham High School,” Sicotte wrote. “Every person at NHS has the right to learn without fear, without hate, and without harm, regardless of whether it is mental or physical.”
This is not the first time offensive graffiti has been discovered at Needham High School. In December 2017 students staged a walkout after racist and anti-gay graffiti was found in two boys’ bathrooms at the high school, and in May 2018 a swastika was discovered near the entrance to the school. More recently, on Nov. 15, four students had reported finding racist and anti-semitic graffiti on a classroom table at the Pollard Middle School, according to the Needham police log.
Needham Police Lieutenant Chris Baker confirmed that police are investigating this most recent report of vandalism at the high school. Regarding the previous incidents of offensive graffiti, Baker said: “I don’t believe anyone has been caught...unfortunately.”
Baker said such cases are difficult to solve because the vandalism is typically “done by cowards, in private, looking for excitement,” and there are usually no eyewitnesses to the crime.
If police found evidence that a particular student vandalized the bathroom, the student could be charged with tagging and police would work with the district attorney’s office to determine whether it meets the definition of a hate crime, he said.
“They’re not the easiest cases to solve,” he said. “It’s hard to prove motive, but you do the best you can to build a case.”
Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.