Mother vows to work with district, school, students to change things, one person at a time.
The mother of a Saugus High Student whose gym locker was
painted with a swastika and a homophobic slur on Wednesday is angry and ready
to do something to stop the “riptide” of discrimination that has existed in the
community for years.
Marcia Davis, whose twin sons, Alex and Todd, both saw the
graffiti when they entered the locker area, works as an administrative aide at
the high school. She says that desensitized students who use foul language casually
and off-handedly refer to each other by derogatory names are the biggest part
of the problem.
“They don’t get it, it’s nothing to them. They feel they
should be able to say these things like it’s no big thing,” she lamented.
She called a meeting of school administrators and law
enforcement on Thursday, but said the person specifically in charge of
addressing diversity on Hart District campuses, which includes hate crimes,
Greg Lee, was conspicuously absent.
“The district sent their PR person, but Mr. Lee wasn’t
there,” Davis said. She still hadn’t
heard from him Friday afternoon.
“In last 24-48 hours, the school district and the sheriff
have both agreed that there’s been an undertow of incidents like this,” she
said. “Their approach has been as long as it stays under the wire, they kind of
just leave it alone. They’ve addressed the issues as they’ve come up but they
agreed they now obviously haven’t done their job if it hasn’t gone down. We’ve
moved into a time where this should be less, not more.”
Lt. Brenda Cambra, who works with detectives that handle
hate crimes, said that the Saugus High case will be investigated as a hate
crime because of the presence of the swastika.
“We get a certain number of vandalism cases that involve
swastikas,” Cambra said. “Not all of them are at the schools; some are out in
the community. Sometimes the victims are Jewish, sometimes they’re not.”
She said that the fact that it happened on a school campus
might be a benefit, because of the proximity of school deputies having a
working relationship with students that could speed the investigation.
“The school also has its own policies and punishments for
breaking school rules,” Cambra said. “We work together and share information,
but their administration could have a different approach. The perpetrator could
be disciplined on a school level, even if it’s determined that it’s not a
criminal matter. Only time and investigation will tell what really happened.”
optimistic about the meeting, despite Lee’s absence.
“I think the dialogue was positive and has opened up some
doors,” she said.
Since the incident Wednesday, Davis
said her sons have witnessed two more discriminatory acts; as they walked to class,
a girl said to her friend “Oh, there are the two Jew boys,” and one of her sons
saw a paper where anti-Semetic phrases were written. In that incident, the
paper was confiscated and turned in to the teacher. According to Davis,
Saugus Principal Bill Bolde told her that the student will be disciplined.
“I believe if we can catch these people one at a time, going
one by one, (we will) change the environment here, I believe we can
change the environment everywhere,” she said.
Davis said that
another part of the problem is desensitized youth aren’t affected by
“It’s not a consequence anymore,” she said. “They usually
give them a suspension or expulsion; they get sent home or they go to the
Opportunity Room. When we went to detention, our parents were phoned and we
were fearful. There’s no fear anymore.”
Davis would like
to see offenders meeting with survivors of the Holocaust to bring some gravity
to the situation. She suggested to Bolde that he contact The Museum Of
Tolerance to help determine an appropriate discipline.
“I still have concerns are they going to stick this back
under the rug, but this has been a riptide in this community for many years.
Every year we talk about this, but we never do anything about it,” she said.
Her sons are having a difficult time and are a bit apprehensive
about school. One is angry about the incident, but both are fearful that the
attention might make things even worse. Davis
has has to convince them that pursuing the issue will be the best for all in
the long run.
“If I would have not escalated this, they (administrators) would
have taken the report, sent the boys back to school and this would have never
been addressed,” she said.
“Why is it that I
know what is right and nobody else does? I think it’s fear-driven,” she said. “I
am not going to let this rest now.”