More than a dozen students are being accused of spraying anti-Semitic and anti-gay slurs on the outside of a Massachusetts high school in what’s being described as a “prank” gone wrong.
Authorities believe 14 male students snuck onto school grounds overnight on May 1 and painted a swastika and anti-gay slurs on the building, parking lot and trash cans. They also broke into the school and damaged vending machines, display cases, an emergency defibrillator, and several fire extinguishers.
Arlington Police say they have id'd 14 students who broke into and vandalized the high school and painted swastikas & anti gay slurs outside pic.twitter.com/gcJpnOCwfq
— Kendall Buhl (@KBuhlWBZ) May 9, 2018
“Apparently it was a planned senior prank that spun out of control,” Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan told the Boston Globe.
It’s not clear yet if any of the suspects will face criminal charges.
“It’s sad because some of them are friends,” Arlington student Annie Harris told WCVB 5. “It’s just kind of confusing that you thought someone was one person and then they go and do this.”
The vandalism comes three months after swastikas were found scrawled on a nearby middle school, and just days after the infamous Nazi symbol was discovered outside a school in nearby Needham. The incidents have led the district and local police to reach out to the Arlington Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission for ways to educate students about hate speech. Part of those efforts include having the culprits face people hurt by their actions.
“Restorative justice can go a long way,” says Deborah Shields of MassEquality. “Having those students sit down and deeply apologize and listen to members of those targeted communities might really teach them something.”
In the meantime concerned Arlington students and community members came together Tuesday to counter the bigoted messages with words of love, writing peaceful messages in chalk outside the school.