2016 | Schools

Racial Slur Found on Bathroom Wall at Silver Spring Elementary School

More clergy sign on to anti-hate message

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Sligo Creek Elementary School.

Montgomery County Public Schools

Updated, 12:08 p.m.: Parents of students at Sligo Creek Elementary School in downtown Silver Spring received a letter Monday from Principal Diantha Swift about a racial slur that was written on the wall in the boys’ bathroom on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Montgomery County Council passed a resolution calling the county a “citadel of justice,” rejecting hate speech, bigotry and hate crimes. It says no one should be deported until the person receives adequate representation and due process. The council is expected to adopt the resolution Tuesday, with a press conference about the resolution Tuesday afternoon.

Also, two more houses of worship have signed on to a statement opposing hate symbols in the wake of swastikas that appeared in the boys’ bathroom at Westland Middle School in Bethesda last week.

Hate messages have been seen throughout the county since the election of Donald Trump as president. On Monday, hundreds of students from Montgomery Blair and Northwood high schools in Silver Spring and Albert Einstein High School in Kensington  walked out in protest carrying signs that read: “Not my president.” County police blocked roads as the students walked miles from Blair along University Boulevard to Westfield Wheaton mall and then along Georgia Avenue to downtown Silver Spring.

Swift told parents in the letter that a classroom teacher saw the slur but failed to report it to the main office. Shortly thereafter, a building service worker saw the graffiti and removed it.

“We are very saddened by this incident. It is offensive. This type of behavior will not be tolerated,” Swift wrote.

But, she said, the incident could be used as a “teachable moment” to reinforce rigorous instruction “in a caring environment to develop responsible citizens.”

The statement from the clergy released Monday morning read, in part: “Symbols of hate and words of bigotry have no place in public discourse and certainly not in our schools.”

Rabbi Greg Harris of Congregation Beth El in Bethesda said the statement shows that houses of worship are standing together against symbols and actions of hate.

“The reaction from coming together has been so positive because people have been upset and shaken by the incidents,” Harris said, referring not only to the swastikas at Westland, but also to the swastikas drawn recently at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda and a defaced “Black Lives Matter” sign at Christ Congregation Church in Silver Spring. At the Episcopal Church of Our Savior on Powder Mill Road in Silver Spring, a sign was vandalized Saturday night with the message, “Trump Nation Whites Only.”

“There’s serious concern about what’s happening in our community,” he said.

In addition to Harris, the joint statement was signed by clergy from St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Bethesda Presbyterian Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, North Bethesda United Methodist Church, Bethesda United Methodist Church, Trinity Lutheran Church and St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

The joint statement followed effort by the clergy of the various nearby churches to get to know each other. “It’s good to have friends because it’s good to have friends,” he said. “And it’s good to have friends because you need to have friends.”

In recent weeks, he said, the social environment has changed, leading the clergy to speak out.

“And we decided we needed to signal to the broader community that we will not accept those symbols and we won’t accept the hate,” he said.