Hate symbols found in bathroom

Four swastikas, the “n-word,” and the words “white power” were written in the fourth-floor men’s bathroom earlier this month. 

And just this past Friday, a student reported seeing the phrases “abortion is murder,” “deport illegal immigrants,” and “Trump 2024” Sharpied onto the wall of the second-floor women’s bathroom. The student reported the incident to Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall, on Friday, December 17. When given the chance to comment on this incident, Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman said to remind students that, “if they see something, say something.” 

Regarding the first incident, Bargeman said that an investigation was unable to determine who was responsible for the vandalism. He said that the symbols may have been drawn on Saturday, December 4, when Wilson hosted students from the area for SAT testing.

“Hate and bigotry have no place in our community,” Bargeman said in an initial email to the Wilson community on Friday, December 10. “We are committed to working hard to make certain that Wilson’s environment embodies kindness, equity, diversity, and inclusion.” 

Bargeman said that on Friday, December 3, there was no writing on the bathroom stalls. Officials said that a student went into the bathroom around 1 p.m. on Saturday, and saw the writing. However, junior Quentin Folds told The Beacon that he saw the drawings as early as 8:05 on the morning of the SAT. 

A teacher reported the graffiti the following Monday. That day, Bargeman submitted a report to DCPS. Bargeman said that the administration examined footage from bathroom-facing security cameras.“We only have cameras that are outside of the bathrooms. So we can’t really tell what students are doing,” he said.

We were deeply saddened by the event,” Jewish Student Union (JSU) leaders Nava Roskes and Zoe Goldman said. “Our main concern is the lack of education surrounding the Holocaust at Wilson,” they added.

Students began to hear about the vandalism on Monday. In the third-period SGA class, a member of the student government showed a video of the bathroom to the class including the swastikas and hate speech on the stalls, junior Michael Cohen said.“We were disgusted,” Cohen recalled. Junior Amirah Taliaferro-Brunn is also in the SGA class. She felt that the video was “very disrespectful and insulting to the community.” 

Cohen said that “we weren’t sure what to do at that point. We couldn’t handle this, so we tried to reach out and seek help.” He then contacted JSU, of which he is a member, to alert them of the situation.  

When Cohen went to see the writing, he said, “there was already a custodian cleaning it out. He kicked me out [of the bathroom] before I could go witness it.” He returned during his fourth period to see the writing on the stall doors.

This is not the first time hate symbols were drawn in Wilson bathrooms. In 2019, two swastikas were also found in the bathrooms, next to the words “f*** Jews.” 

Cynthia Miller-Idriss is an expert on hate speech and terrorism at American University and a Wilson parent. She said that compared to the incident two years ago, this instance “is an escalation that I think has to be taken more seriously because that is much more like [what] you see coming from white supremacist extremists.”

Miller-Idriss said that when schools respond to incidents of hate speech, “It’s important to pursue accountability, but also to express solidarity in a way that immediately makes people feel seen, included, and supported.” She said that the administration should have responded more quickly and specifically. “It’s important to call out racist and white supremacist extremist language for what it is.” 

Taliaferro-Brunn agreed. She said the response from the school “wasn’t enough.” Bargeman’s email, she added, is “acknowledging that it happened but he’s not stating any punishments.” 

Bargeman said, “We had to have time to investigate the situation.” He added that he wanted to provide the community with accurate information in his initial response.

On Tuesday, December 7, JSU leaders alongside Cohen, met with Bargeman to express their concerns over the situation and discuss a solution. They suggested that Wilson should take action to educate students about Judaism and the Holocaust. 

Bargeman agreed and said in his email to the community last Sunday, “I will be working with the SGA and some of our politically active clubs to propose activities that we can use to educate students about the history of hate symbols and the use of hateful language.” 

According to Taliaferro-Brunn, SGA is working with JSU to come up with possible solutions to prevent this from happening again. One solution the two groups discussed is painting the stalls black, to avoid the appearance of sharpie. They also suggested having hall monitors or security guards periodically check the bathrooms.