Below is a joint press release from Town Manager Robert W. LeLacheur, Jr., Police Chief Mark D. Segalla, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. John F Doherty regarding recent swastika graffiti at Reading Memorial High School.
READING — Town Manager Robert W. LeLacheur, Jr., Police Chief Mark D. Segalla, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. John F Doherty report that the Town of Reading is responding swiftly and aggressively after two incidents of swastika graffiti were reported at the Reading Memorial High School in the month of May.
On May 4, students noticed a swastika drawn in blue permanent marker on a classroom floor. The incident was reported to the Reading Police Department and is under investigation.
On the evening of Wednesday, May 24, Reading Police were once again called to investigate a report of a swastika found at the High School. This time, police found a swastika and other graffiti drawn in pen on a cinder block wall of a bathroom in the High School Field House. That incident is also under investigation.
School officials sent a message home to families after the first incident, but this has prompted a larger discussion in town about how people treat each other and how to continuously foster a culture of respect not just in the Reading Public Schools but throughout the community.
“As leaders in the Town of Reading, we are committed to ridding our community of hate and hateful speech,” Chief Segalla said. “That means we need to come together and have uncomfortable discussions about how we treat each other and what words and symbols really mean. Does the average teenager truly understand the hate and violence associated with a swastika? Perhaps not, but it is incumbent upon us to teach them.”
The Town of Reading has an existing relationship with the New England Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and will be utilizing its vast resources and expertise in responding to these recent messages of hate and intolerance.
“We cannot simply write these acts off as isolated incidents. When we ignore hate, it grows,” Superintendent Doherty said. “And while we have reached out to our police department to investigate these incidents, it is not enough for us to identify and punish those responsible. As a school district, we accept that we have a responsibility to dig deeper and teach our children about the topics of hate, racism, and fear. We will continue to use these situations as teachable moments for our students.”
The town has also begun reaching out to local clergy, including an area rabbi, priest, minister, and other members of the religious community to lead a public forum, which will be held in the near future.
“Our police department, schools, and town officers are wholly committed to creating an atmosphere of acceptance in Reading,” Town Manager LeLacheur said. “Our community is healthiest and is at its best when everyone living, working, and visiting Reading feels safe, secure, and included.”
Nationally, hate speech incidents and acts of Antisemitism have been on the rise recently.
“The Reading Police Department is committed to the safety of all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, age, or any other demographic,” Chief Segalla said. “This is the beginning of a dialog, and while we are committed to investigating these hateful acts, we all are better served if we can also prevent such acts from occurring in the future.”
Additional information, including dates, times, and locations of events, will follow.