Surveillance cameras told the tale: In a video of the exterior of Glenelg High School, four people can be seen defacing school property by spray-painting racist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic slurs and symbols, including a swastika, early on the morning of Thursday, May 24.
School service personnel alerted the police, who in a matter of hours apprehended the four alleged perpetrators: Seth Taylor of Ellicott City; Tyler Curtiss of Brookeville; Joshua Shaffer of Mt. Airy and Matthew Lipp of Woodbine. All are 18-year-old Glenelg students and have been charged with multiple counts of “destruction of property based on race, color, religious belief, sexual orientation, or national origin,” according to a police statement. The misdemeanor offense could get the students up to three years in prison.
The graffiti was reportedly directed, at least in part, at the African-American principal of the high school, David Burton, who is in his second year in that position at Glenelg. At an assembly Thursday morning, the Baltimore Sun reported, Burton got a standing ovation from attendees.
Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano called the graffiti “hateful and sickening” in a statement. “Make no mistake,” he went on, “this is a hate crime against so many of our communities and goes completely against the values we share as a community. It is completely unacceptable and actions of this nature will not be tolerated in Howard County.”
Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman also descried the crimes in a statement posted to his Facebook page, but reassured residents with a reminder that “this type of intolerant behavior is the work of a small number of hateful individuals. They do not represent our shared beliefs as a community. They do not represent our shared values in Howard County. We will not tolerate it and will stand together in condemning this behavior.”
Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation, representing the Howard County Board of Rabbis, and Jewish Federation of Howard County interim executive director Ralph Grunewald joined Kittleman at a press conference on May 24.
“An attack against any member of the Howard County community — but especially against any racial or religious minority member — is abhorrent,” Grunewald said in a prepared statement. “We must join together to condemn these sorts of hate incidents whenever and wherever they occur.”
Grossman added: “As Jews, we are especially sensitive to persecution, intimidation, and being singled-out. The Jewish community stands united with the Glenelg High School community and with our elected officials and faith leaders in support of their rapid and unequivocal response to an unconscionable act of hatred.”
Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he was pleased with the response to the incident.
“Obviously, the graffiti and the acts of vandalism are despicable and unacceptable,” he said, “and I couldn’t ask for a more thoughtful and more determined response from the school system, the county leadership and the county law enforcement. They made it very clear this is unacceptable and acted very swiftly.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also released a statement condemning the “repulsive” act.
“The hate-filled views these symbols represent have no place in any learning environment,” said said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry. “We will continue to strongly challenge the emboldening of hate in our schools.”