September 18, 2020

Swastika found etched onto Wellesley High School computer screen

By Christie Yu ’18, Web Editor in Chief

A swastika was found in the Wellesley High School computer lab last week.

There is an ongoing investigation by the Wellesley High School administration surrounding a swastika etched onto a computer in the language lab.

Ms. Lisa Siegel, who runs the language lab of the Classical and Modern Language department, discovered the symbol on September 23 when cleaning up after school. The swastika, etched onto the upper right corner of a computer monitor, is about the size of a thumbnail.

The swastika is a symbol of Nazism and its beliefs, which include anti-Semitism, an issue Wellesley has faced in the past.

Principal Dr. Jamie Chisum spoke about what the presence of the swastika means for the school. “It means somebody violated our core values. Somebody thinks that [a swastika] is okay to bring into our community,” he said.

“This is a conversation that we started on the first day, first thing,” he added, referring to the incident over the summer in which students posted racist comments in a private group chat. Chisum spoke to students at length about that incident on the first day of school, during which he launched the One Wellesley campaign, which celebrates diversity and promotes acceptance in the high school community.

“For someone to bring this [swastika] in after that shows that we still have work to do,” he said. “Which I knew, of course. I’m not going to give one speech and everybody in this school is all of a sudden going to sing Kumbaya and hold hands all the time, but it was disappointing. It was frustrating.”

“It reminds us that we need to talk about the issues, and not run away from them,” said guidance counselor Ms. Cindy Hurley.

Siegel gave an approximate time frame of when the carving could have been created, which was between the first day of school and September 23. Because she conducts a meticulous end of the year clean up, the incident could not have happened before the summer. During the summer, the monitors were left off, and the etching is much easier to see over a dark screen than a light screen. Siegel is certain she did not see the swastika before the start of school.

She reported the issue to Housemaster Ms. Lynne Novogroski, and then to Chisum. Chisum notified staff of the incident last week, then spoke about it over the PA to students on October 5.

Since then, Housemasters Novogroski, Mr. Marc Bender, and Mr. Drew Kelton have continued the investigation into the perpetrator of the incident. Their search progressed when Siegel gave them a list of student log-ins during language lab hours on that computer. They have also conducted interviews with people around the computer in question, who might have seen the perpetrator in action.

Chisum has many worries about the response of the school toward this incident.

“Are kids thinking about it, or not thinking about it at all? Are they willing to see that and not say anything?” he said. “Are they willing to know that their friend is doing that, and think that that’s okay? Whether because they’re agreeing with it, or because they think it’s just a swastika, and not realize the hate and implications that are behind that?”

Chisum said that though he understands kids make mistakes, the presence of this symbol indicates a need for change in behavior and attitude.

“Because if that’s okay, what else is okay?” he asked. “Where’s the line? Why isn’t the line at the swastika? What’s acceptable in our community and what is not?”

“If we don’t define the line, I don’t like what it’s being defined as without us,” he said.

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