GREENDALE — Two days after district leaders announced they would move forward with an action plan created by a communitywide steering committee with a mission of creating a more inclusive environment for students, racist graffiti was discovered in a bathroom on campus.
According to a letter from Principal Steve Lodes to Greendale Schools’ families Friday, Oct. 25, the racist comments were reported to a teacher by a student on Wednesday, Oct. 23.
As of Friday, officials were working to determine who was responsible.
Below is the letter from Principal Lodes:
Dear Greendale Schools Families:
We are deeply saddened and disappointed to share information on another act of hate in our schools. This type of behavior is unacceptable and not tolerated in our schools. Administration takes these concerns very seriously and began an investigation as soon as we were made aware of the information. Midday Wednesday, a student reported to a teacher that racist comments were written on the wall in the bathroom. Immediately, the bathroom was locked and the administration began an investigation to identify the person or persons responsible. Through the investigation, we have identified a small window of time in which the graffiti occurred, and administration is using hallway camera footage, handwriting samples, and interviews to determine who is responsible. Administration will continue to investigate until we are able to identify the person(s) involved and take appropriate action, however, because this is a student discipline matter, we cannot share details of the investigation’s findings.
The consequence for this type of hate speech includes, at a minimum, suspension for the person(s) responsible. We are also working with students and the greater community to support those impacted emotionally by the hate speech. Impacted students can seek support from counseling staff or our Student and Family Assistance Program (SFAP), which is available free to all Greendale Schools families.
Greendale students and the community must know that racist comments and hate speech will not be tolerated in our schools or community. Greendale Schools is committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment. This behavior is unacceptable, and students will be held accountable. Last week, the community came together to review an action plan to improve the welcoming climate for all members of the community. The plan can be found here. While much of the plan is already underway in our schools and community, it is very important that we move forward together.
Steve Lodes, GHS Principal
In fall 2018, a student was suspended after confronting another student for calling her the “n-word.” Her mother said the district reversed the suspension, but it wasn’t enough to make her daughter want to remain a student at the school. That mother became part of the steering committee focused on a more inclusive environment for Greendale students.
In February 2019, a protest took place at Greendale High School after two instances where students used “inappropriate and racially charged language.” Video from one instance spread on social media. Though these incidents did not occur on school property or during school hours, students and staff called for change.
“I want real change,” said Diannia Merriett. “I want real policies that’s going to help students being discriminated against.”
Superintendent Gary Kiltz told FOX6 News on Monday, Oct. 21, the district would move forward with the action plan crafted by the committee, with the district also a partner.
“This is taking it to a whole other level,” said Superintendent Kiltz. “We’re committed to making sure each and every student that comes to Greendale Schools feels a sense of belonging.”
ACLU of Wisconsin officials and parents from the Parents Advocating for Greendale Equity (P.A.G.E.) group criticized Superintendent Kiltz for missing part one of the two-part meeting, which was Friday Oct. 18.
“I’m not sure where his priority is when it comes to diversity,” said Merriett. “If it’s a priority, I think he should have been at an event that he helped initiate.”
Superintendent Kiltz said he had another obligation on Friday.
“We had a strong team from the district that was able to deliver the message and carry on the mission,” said Kiltz.
He said the district’s committed to implementing the action plan, which is broken up into four components built around racial diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Working with our students and our staff to make sure that we have a level of cultural competence,” said Kiltz.
Some examples included drafting strong anti-racism policies, adding cultural elements to existing festivals in the village, as well as looking into teacher recruitment practices.
“We want to make sure that our pool of teachers reflects the diversity of our students, as well,” said Kiltz.