Since swastikas were spray-painted inside Wilbur Cross High School’s athletic complex two weeks ago, students at the school have expressed surprise and disappointment about the incident.
Red swastikas were discovered on Nov. 22 on the walls of the building alongside expletives and President-elect Donald Trump’s name, according to a NHPD report that day. Given that the recent election has stoked fear and anger among Elm City students, the graffiti incident has left members of the Wilbur Cross community confused about the spray paint’s intent.
“Some of it just didn’t make any sense,” Wilbur Cross principal Edith Johnson said. “It was conflicting with the swastikas but then anti-Trump verbiage on the wall.”
Wilbur Cross junior Maxwell Virtue said he believes the graffiti was created by someone who was unhappy about Trump’s election, adding that the swastikas were most likely intended to draw a comparison between Trump and Adolf Hitler.
Virtue first learned about the graffiti on Nov. 23 when he, alongside the rest of the student body, received a phone call from Johnson informing students about it.
The swastikas were removed before any students saw them, according to Johnson, but Virtue said he saw photos of it in the news. He said he was surprised, and called the graffiti “very unfortunate.”
Virtue said many New Haven students were angry about the results of the election. Many have expressed frustration with the electoral college system post-election as well, Virtue said.
Cowiya Arouna, a senior at Wilbur Cross, said she believes the graffiti was created by a Trump supporter who wanted to alert the majority left-leaning student body of the presence of people who support the president-elect. She added that the act of vandalism surprised her as Cross’ students are very “loving.” Many of her peers did not believe the vandal could have been a Wilbur Cross student, she added.
Arouna said though the incident initially frightened and dismayed students, they soon moved on.
“We saw it on the news, we talked about it for a minute but then realized we can’t be scared in school,” Arouna said.
She credited Johnson with making the student body feel supported and safe after the incident. The school’s annual fall sports pep rally was held the next day, and students attended and enjoyed themselves, she said.
Arouna said Trump represents racism and sexism to many high school students and that the majority of Cross did not support the president-elect.
The pep rally that day also focused on celebrating the school’s diversity and inclusion, Johnson said. She added that the majority of the student body are minorities, and the school has seen an increase in immigrant and international student enrollment.
“Here our kids feel free to be open about who they are, and they don’t have to worry [about] people teasing them,” Johnson said. “We are not going to allow some idiot who wrote some bad words on a wall take our confidence, safety and who we are.”
Coral Oritz, one of the students on the Board of Education, told the News that New Haven students were generally upset by the graffiti and that there had been numerous posts on social media expressing anger about the incident.
In a previous interview, Ortiz said that many students had expressed fear about the future of them and their families under a Trump administration. She said refugee and immigrant students in New Haven expressed fear, as well as students worried about their health insurance or reproductive health care.
Jeremy Cajigas, a senior at High School in the Community, said the election has unified his student body.
“The election of Trump has impacted the students of New Haven in many ways,” he said. “You have those who are terrified, but you have your students who are uniting against Trump’s hate and working together to create change.”
But members of the New Haven Board of Education, including Mayor Toni Harp, expressed concern at a Nov. 28 meeting that students would take cues from the presidential election and act uncivilly towards each other, Harp said. In response, the New Haven Board of Alders granted the Board of Education approval to run a workshop on civility and bullying, she said.