Recent graffiti sparks debate and inspires change


Sofia Reynoso

Offensive graffiti recently uncovered by administrator prompted acknowledgement of the issue and an investigation of possible sources in order to prevent future vandalism.

Jackie Perelman, Arts Writing Editor

You wake up in the morning early so you can get dressed nicely; you do your hair, put on some nice clothes and head to school. You get compliments on your outfit and all in all you’re having a great day. You go to the bathroom in between classes to check yourself out, but as you look in the mirror, something catches your eye: a swastika drawn in pen on the wall tile. Suddenly your perfect day isn’t so perfect.

While graffiti is a regular occurence in bathrooms and classrooms at the high school, offensive graffiti is damaging to the community and has serious consequences.

According to Senior Custodian Jim Mellett, custodians are required to report inappropriate graffiti when they see it.

“If it’s your average everyday picture just clean it. If it’s derogatory,  threatening, racial, we report it to security, they take pictures,” Mellett said. “They decide if Brookline Police needs to be involved. After that’s taken care of we then remove it.”

Associate Dean Alexia Thomas explained that the school keeps a record of all previous graffiti.  That way, if the graffiti looks similar to other instances, the school can begin investigating and figuring out a timeline.  

Mellett added that once a timeline for when the graffiti could have been drawn is established, the administration or custodians will go to teachers in the area of the graffiti and ask if anyone left their classroom in the time frame.

“If something’s getting hit a lot, we’ll start checking it every hour. Then we’ll be able to pinpoint what time of day it’s happening,” Mellett said. “You might see that someone left at a certain time, and then you might want to talk to them. Get a look at their backpack, get a look at their books, see what kind of art they do.”

According to Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason, depending on the nature of the graffiti, it could be recorded as a hate crime, and school consequences would likely involve a suspension.

“There would be serious disciplinary consequences, possible police involvement, it depends on a lot of factors. They would be how old the kid is, what was going on, how frequently the symbol was being used, was it directed towards somebody, all of those could play factors,” Mason explained.

According to Thomas, the disciplinary action will often be related to the crime, and will usually involve community service.

“We’ve partnered with the town, and we’ve had students remove graffiti if they’ve done it here,” Thomas said.

According to Mellett, recently the most common graffiti has been swastikas. He says that though the amount of graffiti has not been overwhelming, the type of graffiti has been disturbing.

“Last year some of the bathrooms were closed because there were swastikas in them. Some of them were carved into the wall. Sometimes they close bathrooms down to try to make a point to certain people, that we aren’t going to tolerate this,” Mellet said.

Before winter break, a swastika, drawn in green marker, was found in the men’s bathroom in the science hallway, and is currently being investigated.

“We are working with the Anti-Defamation League; we’ve been working with them for years on outreach and bringing people in to talk about these issues,” Mason said

Mason does not think the frequency  of this destructive behavior has increased or decreased, but he thinks more people are pointing it out.

“Perhaps what we’ve seen is a change that people are more willing to stand up for things, which is great. So that makes us more aware, which is a healthy thing,” Mason said. “And if people are willing to stand up in a community and say this is what I heard and this is wrong, that’s great.”

Thomas emphasized that a key part of an investigation is students telling each other what they see.

“I encourage students to make their voices heard, report things when they see them, even if they want to report it anonymously. We can’t do this without everyone’s help,” Thomas said.