By Claire Kitzmiller & Isabella Scopetski
On the night of Tuesday May 2nd, a group of young males broke into Arlington High and vandalized the school. Their actions consisted of breaking windows, smashing art show display cases, discharging fire extinguishers, breaking tables and smearing various “items” around school property. Additionally, the intruders spray painted three messages of hate on the outside wall of the school, consisting of two homophobic slurs and a swastika on a trash barrel. This detailed information was released to the student body by the end of the day on May 3rd in an email from Principal Dr. Janger.
The administration and the junior class council spent the day on Wednesday planning a response to the hate crimes. During the last period of the day, an assembly was held for all students and staff in the building. The assembly began with a speech from Dr. Janger who condemned the vandalism and reminded his students of how AHS fosters inclusiveness and positivity at its core.
“This vandalism is an attack on our entire community”, announced Janger, “hate speech and vandalism are the opposite of everything we stand for at AHS”. Further in his letter, Janger expressed his concern for the “students who feel particularly targeted by these symbols and words” and his sadness for the “vandals who feel a need to express hate in [the AHS] community”.
Throughout his message, Janger commented on the continual dedication AHS as a community has to “creating a safe, supportive, and inclusive community” which, he noted, “requires ongoing work, [but] Arlington High School is in a good place and moving in the right direction”. However, when events such as this extreme case of vandalism occurs, many wonder who these individuals are, and others ask themselves, how could these people be a part of my own community? It is disturbing and puzzling to many students that members of their own school, or even their own classmates, would display such violence for seemingly no reason at all.
During the grade-wide assembly, members of the junior class student government spoke to their peers, each reading a speech they had prepared during school that day in light of the assembly.
Junior Class President Neil Tracey spoke specifically about the “150 years of legacy to look at” when events shake the AHS community. “We need to talk about the good work that we do” advised Tracey, “because we are defined by that good work and not by the hateful actions of a few individuals”.
Junior Class Vice President Devin Wright responded to the events by saying “The one thing we should all have in common is wanting to make our school a safe and welcoming place for all who attended it”. “We are all just people trying to live our lives with the respect and safety that everyone deserves”, she added.
After the assembly, students and staff were invited to draw welcoming and uplifting chalk messages on the front of the building. Messages include, “Hate has not home here” and “You are loved.”
Many community members were surprised to see such hate in the community but many students feel the hatred expressed by vandalism in school everyday. One junior at AHS believes the vandalism is “just reflexive of how a lot of people think in our school but don’t usually act on.” It is upsetting to many students that the administration only takes action against the ever present hatred in the school, when it becomes visible to everyone.
After the vandalism, students and staff were forced to take a closer look at a problem that has been hidden to many. Biology teacher, Shannon Knuth said, “I think there’s a bigger problem here than what I really understood about.” Many students and staff who are not directly affected by the hatred at AHS, feel the same sentiment.
While the administration did have a quick and effective response to the vandalism at AHS, many community members recognize that the Arlington High School still has a long way to go.