Swastika graffiti, racial slurs reported at Edgebrook School
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Repeated incidents of swastika graffiti in a bathroom and classroom, spoken and written racial slurs, and threats leading to delays of some classes have been reported at Edgebrook School, 6525 N. Hiawatha Ave.
School officials have sent out letters to parents and the community about the incidents since Dec. 9 but it is unclear how many incidents have occurred in the past month or if any disciplinary action has been taken against those who are responsible.
“We write to you to share the disturbing news of repeated anti-Semitic graffiti (swastikas) in our middle school hall bathroom and a classroom and two instances of bias-based language/racial slurs written and spoken around race (n***** and b*****) in just this past week,” wrote school principal Camille Unger and assistant principal Kate Ramos in a letter to the community posted on the school Web site.
“We want to be clear that we firmly and unequivocally denounce these acts and recognize the harm that they cause to both those targeted and those who see or hear. They are not in line with our core values of mind, heart, and effort, and they do not promote the inclusive and affirming environment we all want and work toward,” the letter states.
“While we continue to work to address these issues with students via talking circles, lessons, read alouds, and the appropriate disciplinary measures, we ask for your partnership as well. …We hope that through further education and this collective call to action we can prevent these issues from continuing and better ensure that all of our community members feel seen, heard, and valued for who they are.”
The letter provides several links to resources for parents and students including information about anti-Semitism in the nation and other parts of the world, articles and guides about how to have conversations with kids about anti-Semitism, books to read about racism and articles about how to talk to young kids about slurs and biased language.
Another letter was sent out on Dec. 11 to parents informing them of more swastika graffiti and another letter was sent out on Dec. 14 regarding another matter:
“I am sorry to be notifying you of another incident that took place at our school. This morning, a member of our school community made potentially threatening statements against other members of our school community. We immediately notified the CPS Office of Safety and Security for support and out of an abundance of caution, we also delayed the start of the third period for 6th to 8th grade while we were reviewing the situation. We were able to resume our classes and all students and staff are safe.”
Calls and e-mails requesting a comment or clarification from principal Unger were not returned.
In a statement, CPS only said that it does not tolerate discrimination in any form and is committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment.
“The district handles all allegations in accordance with district policies and procedures, including the Student Code of Conduct. This reported incident is under investigation,” the statement said. CPS provided links to the student code, including a section about “Addressing Bullying and Bias-Based Behaviors.”
In light of the events, several parents are upset about the lack of details coming from Chicago Public Schools and the Edgebrook School administration. Some parents are planning a peace walk next week before the school closes for winter break.
“I understand that this is part of a nationwide trend but it is escalating out of control (at Edgebrook School),” parent Patty Lamberti said. She said that since instances of anti-Semitism occurred in a bathroom and classroom used by students in sixth through eighth grades there should be ways to monitor that bathroom to catch the culprit or culprits or prevent future incidents.
Lamberti said that she is speaking out about the way that this situation is being handled by the school administration and questioned why more disciplinary actions are not being taken. She disagreed with the actions that “apparently” were being taken, she said. She said that the alternative to speaking out is staying silent and hiding problems that need to be addressed.
“There have been a lot of behavioral issues at the school since COVID hit,” she said. “The only disciplinary measures that are being taken are ‘reflective papers.’ She (Unger) said she made the students write reflective papers, get into talking circles,” Lamberti said.
The parent said that the lack of information that is coming out of the school is disturbing, even though she understands the need for privacy.
“Anytime parents ask questions we are shown the CPS policy. I understand they don’t want to make the neighborhood look bad or make the school look bad, but what is going on?” Lamberti said. “None of us have any details. If these are ‘repeated’ offenses I would love to know how many.”
No reports have been filed regarding vandalism or hate speech at the school, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police.
“I know this has been a challenging week for our school, and my team and I will continue working tirelessly to provide all students with a safe, positive learning environment where they can reach their full potential,” Unger said in one of the letters sent to parents.