WAYLAND, Mass. – School officials in Wayland are investigating after a racist slur was scribbled across an African American history display inside the high school.
According to the superintendent, the hurtful vandalism happened sometime on Tuesday morning and was reported to faculty by students.
Letters went home with parents later that day. On Wednesday, students were encouraged to discuss their feelings about why this happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.
“We wanted to address it honestly and make sure the kids felt safe and respected,” said Arthur Unobskey, superintendent for Wayland Public Schools.
Administrators told Boston 25 News the slur was etched in permanent marker in three different places on the display depicting African American history.
The display had just been set up on Sunday in celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary of participation with METCO, a voluntary busing program that allows inner city Boston students to attend Wayland schools.
“The student had written the ‘N’ word in a couple different places,” explained Unobskey. “Kids expressed hurt by it. We need to do more. I think there’s an eagerness of students and staff to face this honestly.”
Unobskey says 137 students take the bus to Wayland daily through the METCO program.
“I was surprised personally. It really upset me. A lot of people I knew were surprised," Wayland High School senior Savannah Salitsky told Boston 25 News. "People think Wayland is above this kind of thing and that prejudice and racial bias doesn’t happen here when it’s obviously not the case."
Senior Savannah Salitsky said while she was surprised, some of her classmates are not.
“Some of the METCO students I talked with were less surprised. They were definitely sad and really angry. They said this stuff goes unnoticed a lot,” added Salitsky. “It needs to spark conversation and put us in check.”
The displays were set up in the history hallway and Student Learning Center (SLC).
In a letter to the community, Wayland High School Principal Allyson Mizoguchi wrote she was 'devastated to report' that the student-created displays depicting African American History in Wayland and a METCO 50th Anniversary display had been vandalized with racist graffiti.
Mizoguchi called the act 'an abhorrent violation of our values and an insult to our community,' further noting that 'hate in any form - whether in word or deed - has no place at WHS.'
"This is not a community where hate speech is OK," he said. “I think there’s a lot of eagerness of students and staff to face this honestly and say we’re against it."
The full letter from Principal Mizoguchi can be found below:
To the Wayland High School community:
Two days ago, the Wayland community came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of METCO in a joyful Open House event at Wayland High School. Among the many palpable sentiments shared at this event was the vitality and importance of racial and cultural diversity, and our ongoing commitment to building bridges of understanding in our community.
In searing contrast to the joy of this weekend's celebration, today I am devastated to report that this morning, at approximately 9:30 a.m., a student reported racist graffiti to a teacher. The graffiti defaced the Timeline Tunnel display depicting African American History in Wayland and a METCO 50th Anniversary display in the History hallway and Student Learning Center (SLC). An individual or individuals wrote the n-word prominently and in full public view with permanent marker on three different portions of the student-created displays.
This act is an abhorrent violation of our values and an insult to our community. Hate in any form -- whether in word or in deed -- has no place at WHS. Unfortunately, as a microcosm of our larger society, our school still has work to do when it comes to embodying a fully inclusive, hate-free, and understanding community. In Advisory tomorrow, we will use this opportunity with our students to declare again our mission and expectations and to probe how we might do more to prevent such acts. Additionally, we welcome all interested students to attend a lunchtime discussion in the Fine Arts Shop (room A139) to process this event. This is also an opportunity for our community to band together in solidarity against hatred. I respectfully urge parents to discuss this incident with your child and to support a shared vision for our school community of respect and equity.
Although the graffiti has been removed and the displays have been restored, we will continue to vigorously investigate the incident. In light of the ongoing investigation, I ask you to please pass on information regarding the graffiti to Mr. Nocito, Mr. Dolleman or me. Any student may also provide information through the school Confidential Safety Reporting Form.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Cox Media Group