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U High graffiti incident sparks meeting with NAACP

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NORMAL — Representatives of the NAACP and Illinois State University described discussions this week about an incident involving a swastika and the words “I hate minorities” being written on a lockers in the University High School boys' locker room as helpful and educational.

Linda Foster, president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP chapter, and Carla Campbell-Jackson, the chapter's first vice president, met with Dana Kinley, superintendent of ISU lab schools and ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff.

“It shed light on some of the practices and procedures they are required to do,” said Foster. “We were pleased with their willingness to meet with us.”

She said, “We came out of the meeting being comfortable that they are doing what they need to do.”

The student involved was quickly identified by administrators. Kinley said the school is “following a process that takes into consideration student privacy rights, confidentiality and due process.”

Woodruff explained that for something to be considered a hate crime, another crime has to be committed first. But because the student wrote the message in spray deodorant that was easily wiped off, it didn't constitute criminal damage to property.

He noted the student still faces consequences through the school disciplinary process.

Foster said the act was disturbing.

“No students should have to deal with this in a school setting,” she said. “The school needs to make a stand … and show the community that this is not going to be tolerated.”

Foster said, "Our youth are critically important to the fabric of our organization and they deserve a learning environment where they can not only survive, but thrive."

The student group Not In Our Schools issued a message calling the incident “disgusting and morally wrong.”

“We support the students of U High during this time of confusion and hateful action on the part of one students,” that statement said.

Kinley said, “It's unfortunate that this event happened but it is an opportunity for us to work together going forward.”

The superintendent said she had been in contact with Foster last fall on some other issues, and “this was a great opportunity to come together to do some problem solving on an immediate issue.”

In a letter sent to parents after the incident, Principal Andrea Markert said the school is working on diversity efforts, and teachers will be undergoing microaggression training on Friday.

Woodruff said it's in fortunate his department has a good relationship with the local NAACP chapter, and the Minority and Police Partnership is in place.

“When incidents like this come up, you can have these open conversations,” he said.

Foster said the NAACP and related groups are willing to work with U High on these problems.

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota


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