Swastika image sent to students’ cellphones at Oak Park and River Forest H.S.

An image of a swastika was electronically sent to students attending an assembly at Oak Park and River Forest High School Friday morning — just days after someone scrawled racist graffiti on the walls at the west suburban school.

Someone sent the swastika image to students using the AirDrop function on an iPhone or other Apple device while they were in the school’s auditorium, according to an email from Karin Sullivan, a spokeswoman at the high school.

Sullivan wrote that the image was sent by someone in the auditorium.

“Administration and security are aware and are in full investigation mode,” Sullivan wrote.


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AirDrop is a filesharing service created by Apple that allows files to be transmitted instantly between Apple devices in close proximity. Any Apple devices — including iPhones — within the range of a shared Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network can receive a shared file instantly.

Since a preview image is displayed with a prompt asking each user to accept or deny a file share, the swastika image would have appeared immediately on the screens of all iPhones in the auditorium that were connected to the shared network.

Figuring out who sent the image will not be easy. A customer service representative with Apple said out of respect to personal privacy, the company does not keep records of interactions between devices through AirDrop.

If an image is saved via the function, there could be some basic information attached, such as when and where the photo was taken. But a sender can easily change the name associated with the image. In this case, a screenshot of the image identifies the sender as “Rouse” — an apparent reference to the principal at the school, Nathaniel Rouse, who is African American.

School officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Series of incidents

The swastika sent Friday is the latest in a series of racially charged incidents at the school.

Last week, someone targeted a special education teacher at the school, Anthony Clark, an African-American man, in a racist message written on the school’s campus. The phrases “F— dancing n—– Anthony Clark” and “white power” were accompanied by two crudely drawn swastikas.

Three days ago, on Tuesday, more bigoted graffiti was discovered at the school. Along with another swastika, someone wrote “All n—— need to die,” “white power,” “Death to blacks and muslims” and “GAS the Jews.”

Parents said students at the school are worried as the incidents continue — and are even keeping their kids out of class.

“It’s getting scarier for the students and my own daughter,” said Shelly Jamison, whose 17-year-old daughter attends the school.

“She is really nervous to go to school because of what might happen,” she added. “My daughter is struggling with this and having a really difficult time. We are keeping our kids home. … This will end up affecting their education.”

She doesn’t believe the incidents “represent the thoughts of the students and faculty at all, but it’s unnerving that they are so brazen.”

An African-American student who attended the assembly — but did not get the swastika image — said the police presence has noticeably increased in the wake of the incidents and officers are are walking the halls of the school.

“I’ve been here for four years and nothing has changed,” said the student, who asked not to be named. “This kind of stuff happened before, and will continue to happen.”

Teacher calls for unity

On Friday, Clark called on the community to come together this weekend to reject hatred.

“I am calling for all religious leaders, all community members, all allies, to come together in support of Black, Jewish, and Muslim communities this Sunday, to stand firm against hate,” he said.

He organized a march for 3 p.m. Sunday, leaving from the main entrance to the high school. In a Facebook post, he said he was calling “on neighbors to stand with your black, Jewish, brown, & Muslim neighbors” against racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all other form of hate and bigotry.

The high school has been the subject of a national conversation about race following the release of a 10-part documentary about race relations and the racial achievement gap at the school. The documentary was filmed by Steve James, the award-winning director of “Hoop Dreams” — and an Oak Park resident.

The program on the STARZ network has led to a series of forums on racial equity.


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