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Swastika Found in Massachusetts High School Amid String of Controversies


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The Massachusetts State House. Photo Credit: David Mark/Pixabay.

A graffitied swastika was found in a bathroom at Danvers High School in Massachusetts last week, in the wake of a string of controversies in the North Shore community.

Danvers High School principal Adam Federico said in a letter to parents and students on Wednesday that he is “deeply saddened and frustrated” by the incident, which followed Danvers High School’s recent suspending of its wrestling team for a fight provoked by a member’s use of racial slurs, and the school’s discovery of a team Snapchat group containing “references to hazing and biased language.”

“We condemn this hate crime and want to be clear that this type of hateful and discriminatory behavior has no place at Danvers High School,” Federico wrote. “We’ll be meeting with students throughout the next few days to engage in work around biased and hateful language, dangers of social media and the importance of reporting concerning information.”

The Danvers community has been “troubled by racially charged disturbances,” The Boston Globe reported last Tuesday. Two swastikas were found at Holten Richmond Middle School in November, while locals are still processing allegations that school officials concealed details of the Danvers High School hockey team’s hazing of a white player who refused to participate in “Hard-R Fridays,” a weekly ritual in which players on the all-white team took turns shouting a racial slur.

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In another ritual, “Gay Tuesday,” Danvers High School hockey players turned out the lights in the locker room and, after stripping naked, groped each other’s genitalia. Anyone who refused to participate in the activity, the report said, was subdued and forcibly stripped of clothing.

According to The Globe, Danvers school board officials never told parents that a hockey player alleged that he was assaulted and sexually assaulted for declining to participate in either activity. School officials also did not disclose the discovery of a team group chat with threads of vulgar comments, including jokes about the Holocaust and others making light of videos depicting the “violent deaths of black people.”

“We do not tolerate and will continue to address racist, sexist, homophobic, antisematic [sic] language and actions,” School Superintendent Lisa Dana told The Globe in a November statement. “We continue to move forward as an equity seeking district. It is important for us as community leaders and educators to help our students realize the power of their words and decisions while providing them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and become productive, responsible, caring citizens of the community.”

Earlier this month, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill (S 2557) mandating education about the Holocaust and other genocides in the commonwealth’s middle and high schools. Legislators pushed for passing the bill amid concerns that “collective knowledge of genocides appears to be declining,” local news station WBUR reported.

A September 2020 survey of young Americans found that nearly half reported being exposed to online content denying the Holocaust, while 56% encountered Nazi propaganda.

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