Racist graffiti found at Ridgefield High School
Racist graffiti scrawled on lockers has cast a shadow on the atmosphere of tolerance and respect that Ridgefield High School’s leadership seeks to create.
“We discovered a racial slur, ‘the n-word,’ written on a bank of lockers in the boy’s locker room,” RHS Principal Stacy Gross said in a statement read to students and staff Tuesday. “I wish to emphasize that those who create such statements serve to offend all of us in our Ridgefield High School community, and this will never be considered acceptable behavior.
“As I have stated previously, I know that you understand that these acts, and similar ones towards any group, attempt to weaken our conscience, poison our spirit, and destroy the freedom of all of us,” Gross said.
Interim Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote addressed the issue in a message to parents on Tuesday.
“The school district denounces hate speech and racist graffiti,” Paddyfote wrote. “Our schools promote environments that nurture diversity and inclusion. Please take an opportunity to speak to your child about tolerance and if you have any questions about how the topic is addressed at your school please contact the principal, assistant principal or elementary supervisor for information.”
Gross asked students and staff to join in the school’s ongoing efforts against intolerance in her message delivered to the school Tuesday at noon.
“As our nation, state and town struggle with similar situations in every sector, I ask that you join with me in working towards putting an end to this behavior by addressing it when you witness it and reporting it to proper authorities when you see it,” Gross said.
“We will continue working steadfastly with district administration, municipal leaders, faculty, students, clubs and student government to explore ways to address and prevent these types of behavior.
“We are notifying the Norwalk branch of the NAACP,” Gross said. “Our partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and their NAMES Day program and additional professional development provided for our staff serve to further this cause.
“I trust you will partner with us in creating an environment that is safe, secure and respectful for everyone.”
This week’s graffiti follows a number of previous instances of intolerant messages being found at Ridgefield High School or spread among its community. These include an incident where a photograph of a white student in blackface made the rounds on social media among students a few years back, a swastika found carved into a desk and racist graffiti found at the school tennis courts.
“These acts sharply contrast our mission statement and core values,” Gross said. “They are actions intended to demean and diminish members of our community, the people that we live side by side with every day of the school year.
“This type of behavior does not represent the type of school that we strive to be,” Gross said. “I know that you join with me in saying, ‘We will not allow our school to become a platform for hatred and intolerance of any group. Furthermore, we will not be bystanders to humiliation, and we will not be silent to the suffering of others.”