Racist graffiti discovered at Oak Park and River Forest High School for the second time in less than a week caused an uproar on campus Tuesday as student protesters called for a racial-equity policy and curriculum, and the hiring more teachers of color.
Last week, special education teacher Anthony Clark, who is African-American, was targeted in graffiti found on a shed on campus.
“F— dancing n—– Anthony Clark,” the graffiti discovered on Friday read. The graffiti also includes the words “white power” and two swastikas.
Clark was featured in America to Me, the recent Starz documentary series focusing on race relations at the diverse school.
On Tuesday, parent Shelly Jamison on Facebook posted the latest graffiti that calls for the death of “blacks, Muslims.” The graffiti also says “All n—— need to die” and “gas the Jews.” Like last week’s graffiti at the school, there is also a swastika.
“We are a multiracial family, and it really makes you sit through and think how are you planning to school your kids moving forwards,” Jamison said.
OPRF Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams told parents in an email that the administration has launched an investigation and is reviewing hours of footage from school security cameras.
Both incidents have also been reported to police, she said
During one of two school assemblies about the graffiti Tuesday afternoon, several students got up to protest on stage and a few walked out, Pruitt-Adams said in the email.
Some also protested after the assembly let out, but while it “was unexpected, noisy, and confusing in the moment, the event was peaceful, and security, teachers, and administrators were fully present to ensure everyone’s safety,” Pruitt-Adams said.
Follow-up discussions with students are planned for second period on Wednesday, and a town hall meeting will be held at the school later in the evening, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Extra security has been in place at the school, Pruitt-Adams said in the email.
Clark, the special ed teacher named in last week’s graffiti incident, said he was hurt that he was personally attacked.
“When things like this occur, you can do one of two things. You can run and cower, or you can charge at it head-on and show that this act of hate did not take power away from me, and that’s what I want to show my students,” he said.
As for the individual or party involved with writing the racist rhetoric?
“I called the community out because we are so quick to go to march against President Donald Trump, but are you really able to take that same energy to confront your racist fathers, bigoted grandparents or homophobic uncles?” Clark said.
Jamison, the parent who posted on Facebook about the graffiti, did not send her 17-year-old daughter to school on Tuesday and has contemplated home schooling the teen and her six other children.
“She feels scared, she feels angry, she feels sad that this is the mindset of some of the people she has to walk the halls with,” Jamison said of her eldest daughter. “With all that being said, she feels motivated to do something different to speak out and want to see change in the school.”
Steve James, who directed America to Me, said it is too early to tell if a resident of Oak Park is responsible for the incident. He hopes not.
“I think the response that is coming out of this incident from students is very encouraging to me,” James said. “There is a strong will and determination by students of color in that school to stand up to all forms of racism and demand equity.”
Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.
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