As social media continues to bring awareness to the troubling racism that exists in our country, the national coverage of these instances has also increased. However, the story of four white teens in Maryland who were charged with hate crimes after racial slurs and swastikas spray-painting on the outside of a high school hit particularly close to home.
On Thursday morning, seniors of Glenelg High School prepared for a special ceremony in which they receive awards and scholarships for college. I know about this ceremony because I was once a student of Glenelg.
Unlike my experience at the awards ceremony, the students who went to school on Thursday were met with awful graffiti. Swastikas were found on the building and in the school parking lot. Additionally, homophobic slurs were written as well as a racially charged message directed at the school’s Black principal.
“Burton is a n****r,” read one of the messages in reference to Principal David Burton.
Glenelg is a predominantly white school in a well-to-do suburb of Howard County. Burton has only been the principal for the last two years.
Shortly after the hateful graffiti was found, Howard County police used video from surveillance cameras to help identify the 18-year-olds involved.
Tyler Curtiss, Matthew Lipp, Joshua Shaffer, and Seth Taylor (above from left to right) were arrested less than three hours after a news conference was held about the incident, reported the Baltimore Sun.
The arrests were announced less than three hours after county, school and community leaders held a news conference to denounce the incident.
“We will not tolerate this in Howard County,” school Superintendent Michael J. Martirano said at the news conference. “We work hard every day to make sure our children are safe and protected. No child, no staff member, within our inclusive community should ever feel any form of threat or harassment or any form of hate.”
In the wake of the incident, many parents have taken to social media in an attempt to distance themselves from the actions of the four suspects. However, students of color have argued that this narrative is what has allowed the racism of the community to flourish.
While this incident is the first hate crime in a Howard County school this year, many current students say this is not the first time racist language has been used on campus.
One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she’s overheard the n-word used in the halls.
"Why are these n*****s still at school,” she said she heard a student say.
Hearing the word used so flippantly has made the school’s few students of color feel isolated.
"School is supposed to be a safe environment, but with people saying the n-word right and left, it's hard to tell,” the anonymous student said.
In my own years at Glenelg, I witnessed, heard, and experienced several occasions of racism from friends and foes alike. Unfortunately, little has changed in the eight years that I left.
On Thursday morning, Principal Burton held a school assembly with students about the incident. During his address, he received a standing ovation from the student, according to Martirano.
Burton also sent the following message to the community:
“A Message to the Glenelg Community
“Yesterday was a difficult day. The careless acts of a few of our students caused a ripple effect of hurt, pain, and confusion for our school community. Our senior class came to school joyful to celebrate their hard work during our senior awards and senior picnic, only to find their school in the middle of chaos spawned by the hateful acts of a few of their peers.
“Yet, in the face of such a dark moment, a greater force emerged. A spirit of compassion, respect, common connection, and appreciation unified our community and helped us rise above.
“I have been deeply humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and compassion by the Glenelg and surrounding community in the aftermath of this horrific event. I would like to thank everyone who has reached out with expressions of support and shared values.
“I would also like to thank our central office leadership, led by Interim Superintendent, Dr. Martinaro, as well as the Board of Education, County Executive Allan Kittleman, other county leaders and elected officials, the faith community, and local law enforcement members for rallying together in unity to support our community.
“A wise quote states to “Embrace fear, insecurity and uncertainty as the doorways of opportunity that they are.” Yesterday’s events demonstrate that there is still work to be done to ensure that diversity and acceptance are valued and that hatred and injustice will not be tolerated. I look forward to working with members of our school and surrounding community to rise above and promote an environment where every student and staff member feels welcome, safe, respected, and appreciated in our school.
“If you have not done so already, please take some time to discuss these events with your children over the long break. I wish a happy Memorial Day weekend to you and your families, and I look forward to working collaboratively to close out this school year for our graduates and students with unified dignity and pride in our collective community.”
(Photo: Howard County Police Department)
TRENDING IN NEWS