Police and public school board investigations are underway following the discovery of antisemetic and anti-Black graffiti at three Newmarket schools this week.
“Images of a swastika and the N-word were etched in (wash)room stalls” at Newmarket High School on Pickering Crescent and Huron Heights Secondary School on Huron Heights Drive, according to York Region District School Board (YRDSB) associate director of education Cecil Roach in a news release issued by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) today.
“A swastika was drawn on an interior door” at Glen Cedar Public School on Wayne Dr., according to Roach.
York Regional Police and YRDSB are conducting investigations, and the school communities have been informed.
On March 4, 2022, Officers responded to Newmarket High School for a report of graffiti carved into a washroom stall in the boys washroom. The carving was an anti-Black remark.
On Monday, March 7, 2022, officers attended Newmarket High School for a report that two carvings into the front of lockers were located in the school. One carving was anti-Semitic and one was anti-2SLGBTQ+
On Tuesday, March 8, 2022 officers were called to Huron Heights Secondary School in Newmarket after graffiti was located in the boys washroom. The graffiti included a number of drawings, profanities and male genitalia as well as some possibly anti-Black and anti-Semitic graffiti that has been partially scribbled over.
There were no witnesses and there are currently no suspects in the incidents, according to Staff Sgt. Andree Vincent. No charges have been laid.
"We were disappointed to discover that some of our schools in the community of Newmarket last week and this week were targets of antisemitic, anti-Black racist and homophobic vandalism. As a school board, we take these incidents seriously. Upon learning of the incident, the schools immediately contacted York Regional Police and, once cleared, removed the offensive material so no one else would be subjected to it, said Miguelo Licinio, YRDSB senior manager of corporate communications in an email.
"Our Inclusive School and Community Services were also engaged and will take additional steps in the community. Our Inclusive Schools team has also notified agencies and leaders that support LGBTQ+, Jewish and Black communities in an attempt to be transparent and provide wraparound support for students. While these incidents are very upsetting, they are occurring in a school board that is explicitly committed to championing equity and inclusivity."
The incidents follow a string of hateful graffiti found recently at three Toronto-area high schools and a Markham synagogue and park, FSWC said.
FSWC has offered educational programs to the school, but there is no word on whether YRDSB will take the organization up on its offer or whether a plan is in place to educate its students, the centre stated.
“We are saddened to once again hear of more hateful graffiti found at schools, this time in Newmarket,” said Michael Levitt, FSWC president and CEO. “These growing incidences of hate create a toxic environment for all students and staff and must be addressed with the highest priority by education leaders.
"In addition to identifying and holding accountable those who carried out these hateful acts, we expect a commitment by the YRDSB and the schools to bringing additional education on antisemitism and racism to both the individuals involved in the incidents and all students.”
Rabbi Mendy Grossbaum of Chabad Newmarket called the incident "deeply hurtful to hear" and "deeply disturbing," to know this type of hatred is in the neighbourhood and that children are being exposed to symbols of hatred.
"Whenever forces of darkness of hate come our way, without fail the light always prevails," he told NewmarketToday.
NewmarketToday did not receive a reply by YRDSB by publication deadline.
Editor's note March 10, 2022: The story has been updated to include additional information.