After Second Swastika Found at WHS, What to Do?
EDITOR’S NOTE: We are trying to find a way, uniquely fit to GOOD Morning Wilton, to process the recent incidents at Wilton High School involving hateful vandalism. Many of you have contacted us to express your sadness, your outrage and your need for “something to be done.” We’re working on it, and we’d welcome any ideas or input. In the meantime, here’s the latest that we know about the second swastika found at WHS.
A second swastika has been found at Wilton High School, in a boys’ bathroom.
According to Wilton Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith, it was discovered scratched into the paint of a bathroom stall, in a bathroom on the third floor that is “not widely trafficked.” It was discovered Tuesday evening, Sept. 23 and an announcement about it was made to students Friday afternoon.
Following that, a letter was sent home by email to parents later on Friday afternoon from WHS principal Robert O’Donnell.
Superintendent Smith confirmed that the swastika was found by custodians. “Principal O’Donnell learned from custodians who have been checking and paying closer attention since the discovery of the first swastika. It was carved into a stall wall.”
According to Smith, the case is being investigated by School Resource Officer Rich Ross. “He will be looking at video footage from cameras in the hallway near the bathroom.”
Asked whether officials could be sure that this latest instance of vandalism hasn’t been something existing for some time–potentially even before the swastika found on the locker on Sept. 8. Smith confirmed that because custodians have been paying specific attention and have a heightened awareness, they were able to determine that the bathroom was free of this particular vandalism prior to discovering it on Tuesday evening. “They are doing a more thorough job of checking, and the perception is that this one is new,” Smith said.
School officials believe that the incident is “slightly different” from the first incident, in that they believe, “no one in particular is being targeted. We don’t want to conjecture about this,” Smith said, adding that setting aside the investigation of who committed this second act, it’s still something they are upset about.
“It’s incredibly disturbing. We are reaching out to the kids and having conversations, and what we are hearing is that it does not represent the community here at all. These are harmful acts and it merits some discussion,” Smith told GOOD Morning Wilton.
According to Smith, they hope that if any students have any information regarding the investigation, “they will talk to a responsible adult with that information.”
Incredibly, a Third Swastika spotted–this time, an ‘old one’
Almost defying imagination, on Friday, a third swastika was found, scratched into a wooden door. However, according to another email O’Donnell sent some parents, this last one was determined to be “many years old.”
“Since I made the announcement to the students today, some students pointed out to me an old swastika scratched in a wooden door on the first floor. The symbol is faded and appears to be many years old. I appreciate the students bringing it to my attention. It is a sign that they realize that we intend to eradicate this symbol and its meaning from our school. We will remove it immediately,” he wrote.
O’Donnell’s message to parents informing them of the second new swastika offered not just factual information about the vandalism and the investigation, but it also conveyed the principal’s reaction, calling the act by a student a “poor choice”: “In challenging times, when students make very poor choices that impact the school community, it is incumbent on us as educators and parents to stick to the facts, find meaning in these events, and teach all of our students that this is unacceptable behavior that is hurtful to us all.”
As for steps they plan to take to help the students and the school community move forward, Smith said O’Donnell first “wants to reach out to the kids, to generate ideas on what can be done.” He cited using student government to come up with ways the student body can process the events.
As well, he said the social studies teachers will recreating curriculum lessons at an appropriate, grade-level to discuss the meaning of the symbol and the impact it has. Smith added that officials will be reaching out to the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) again to find out how other schools have responded in similar situations.”