Collection of years-old, offensive graffiti found under display case


Jadyn Jacobs

Students walk by the art case near one of the H200 stairwells. Last week, administration discovered that the underside of the case was covered with 15 years worth of graffiti. The graffiti has since been painted over.

Ben Schanzer, News Editor

Following a student tip, a large collection of graffiti was discovered by administrators under an art display case in the H200 hallway last week.

Among the graffiti, some of which can be dated back to 2004, at least nine racist, homophobic and anti-semitic markings were discovered. After administrators chronicled the graffiti, it was painted over, and the Northborough-Southborough communities were informed of the issue, along with what steps the district is taking to combat hate speech and discrimination. 

According to Principal Sean Bevan, the graffiti was discovered based on a writing activity a student completed in response to other graffiti that was recently discovered in a student bathroom.

“One of our teachers had done a writing exercise with their students and asked them about whether or not they see a lot of graffiti and whether or not they see or hear hate speech either online or otherwise,” Bevan said. “Happily, [the teacher] reported that the vast majority of them said, ‘No, kids treat each other kindly and that they treat each other as you would expect.’ But one of the responses said that they were aware of this place in the school where there is a great deal of graffiti in a concentrated space and described it as an art display case up in the H200s.”

Bevan said most of the markings were “garden-variety” things such as names, initials and dates. However, some messages contained hate speech.

“Most of it was really pretty boring and not terribly interesting,” Bevan said. “But there were definitely racist, homophobic and anti-semitic words and symbols on there.”

The art display case, located near the staircase on the cafeteria end of the H200 hallway, was installed in 2004. Because of the 17 years between the case’s installation and the discovery of the markings, it is not clear when the markings were made, yet Bevan and Superintendent Greg Martineau believe many are not recent.

In an email sent to students and staff on Nov. 9, Martineau said, “There is no evidence that the graffiti is recent.”

Standard operating procedures for any issues which threaten the “physical or social-emotional safety” of Algonquin dictate that a police report should be filed, though Bevan does not believe an investigation will determine any perpetrators.

“This investigation [might not] generate leads to find out who was the perpetrator because those people might be at this point 30 years old and older, but I think it’s a good practice to involve the police,” Bevan said.

Bevan emphasized that none of the markings included physical threats to the Algonquin community.

According to Martineau, a lot of work is already being done to raise awareness for issues like hate speech and discrimination, and this incident has only highlighted the importance of continuing this work.

For example, the district has a Coalition for Equity, which, according to the district’s website, is a group tasked with “building community partnerships focused on issues of equity in our districts; creating the conditions for courageous conversations to support collaborative learning about inequality; and identifying and developing resources to support learning and action.”

In addition, the district has partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to bring their World of Difference program to students and staff.

“We are using this [incident] as an opportunity to reinforce the value of the [programs] we’re already doing,” Bevan said. “For example, this came up on Friday [Nov. 5], but earlier in the week on Monday for our full day PD session, half of that time was spent in training with the Anti-Defamation League to talk about how to ensure that our classrooms are culturally inclusive and tolerant places.”

 Bevan encourages any students who witness hate speech to report it to a trusted adult or anonymously through the Say Something reporting software.