By: A. W. Taylor
Correction: The BSA Muse misinterpreted a quote from Eliyah Burg. The sentence has been removed and replaced with an accurate statement.
Beginning in late September, graffiti began appearing in the some of bathrooms at the Baltimore School for the Arts. This graffiti included hate speech, with swastikas and other profanities being drawn in the bathrooms.
The hate speech first appeared after the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and has continued through September and October, which contain several other Jewish holidays.
Following the first appearances of the hate speech, two emails were sent by the school’s Executive Director, Rosiland Cauthen, to the student body. The first, sent on September 28, addressed the graffiti in general, expressing that it is “outside of our school values” and could result in expulsion from the school for the student(s) responsible.
The second email was sent the following day and defined the issues as “more than just graffiti”. Cauthen expressed that this hate speech will not be tolerated at the school.
“It’s just really upsetting that I have to come to my dream school, that I worked really hard to get to, and know that there’s somebody who thinks it’s okay that millions of minorities were murdered,” said Freshman Olive Carter-Bergenstein.
Following the emails, the school announced in a whole-school meeting that they would be posting QR codes around the school where students could anonymously report anything they see. They also re-announced an assembly, scheduled before the hate speech appeared, with a Holocaust survivor.
Carter-Bergenstein says the QR codes are “worth a shot”.
They also stated, “Telling people that it isn’t ok to do something when somebody’s already doing it multiple times doesn’t really do much. Of course, it’s important to get that message out […] Somebody hearing Principal Roz tell them it’s not okay to draw hate symbols on the wall isn’t going to stop them from doing it.”
Carter-Bergenstein hopes that other students don’t think of hate speech as a joke; they hope that other people care about the gravity of the situation. They want the school to host more events where students and staff can talk about the issue with all students present.
“My first thought was about the potential threat to my safety and the safety of other Jewish students,” said Senior Eliyah Burg, head of the Jewish Student Group at BSA
Burg believes the administration’s initial response was underwhelming, however, she is grateful for the subsequent actions the school has taken. Additionally, the initial and continuing support from students meant a lot to her.
On October 19, Gerad Bandos, the faculty advisor for the Jewish Student Group, began a series of daily informational emails educating the school on antisemitism and the Holocaust, in preparation for the assembly with the Holocaust survivor.
Burg is collaborating with the schools’ Student Government and other student activism groups to plan a project where the school can come together as a community and combat the hate speech. They hope to produce an “anti-graffiti graffiti” installation to spread the opposite message of the graffitied hate speech.
On October 20, the school held community circles with the entire student body. During these circles, small groups of students in the same grade level discussed how the hate speech made them feel. The school hoped these circles would help “create a safe space for everyone to share their concerns and ideas”.
As of this publication, the person or people behind the hate speech have not been found.
To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at email@example.com.
Headline photo caption:
A masked student graffitiing a bathroom. Illustration by Amalie Nohe-Moren for the BSA Muse.