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Franklin - Local Town Pages

FHS Moves Swiftly to Address Hateful Graffiti

By J.D. O’Gara
Although many try to protect their children from incidents such as this, hate reared its ugly head on June 9, 2021, when a swastika, an anti-Semitic symbol of hate and white supremacy, was found in a 3rd floor boys’ bathroom of Franklin High School.
In a letter to the Franklin High School community, Principal Joshua Hanna explained that an investigation into the incident had begun, with cooperation from the Franklin Police.
“The fact that the swastika graffiti was found at Franklin High School is far beyond disappointing. It is extremely troubling and highly inconsistent with the inclusive culture we are committed to creating at Franklin High School. Franklin High School is no place for hate. I pledge to you continued vigilance in this matter as well as continued long-term efforts to promote and support a positive, hate-free school environment. While we believe that the steps we’ve taken this year to address diversity and inclusion have done a great deal to further our school’s mission of being a welcoming and safe school environment, it is clear that we still have a long way to go.”
Sara Ahearn, Superintendent of Franklin Public Schools told Local Town Pages that Franklin Schools administrative team had put together a response protocol, a teaching tolerance framework to respond to incidents of hate and bias, following a 2017 incident that involved three swastikas.
“That framework includes preserving evidence, but removing it before it causes further harm, communicating and condemning the act with the community,  and conducting an investigation. If that investigation revealed a potential crime, Franklin police would then become involved, she says. “And then, you work on efforts to heal your community and educate,” says Ahearn.
Immediately following the incident, Hanna explained that he would personally address the issue with students in his morning announcement, that FHS would provide an opportunity for students and staff to meet with an administrator/counselor to help process their feelings, and that the school’s faculty, staff, administrators and students would to participate in the district’s  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee aimed at bringing “awareness to and affirmation of diversity within our school community and developing age-appropriate curriculum and discussions to promote a safe and inclusive learning environment for each and every child.” Hanna also applauded those who had the courage to bring the graffiti to the school’s attention.
Rep. Jeff Roy, on local social media, wrote, “This is the act of a sick mind, and I strongly condemn it as a manifestation of hatred. I am happy that the school administration is investigating the incident and has brought in the Franklin Police to assist. It is ironic that today also happens to be the day I wrote the letter below urging the Education Committee to release my bill on genocide education in schools … There are so many wonderful students at Franklin High, several of whom I met at the Empty Bowls event. I know that they will stand against this act and support their Jewish classmates. I stand with them and will continue to urge final passage of this bill to deter indifference to crimes against humanity and human suffering.”
Senator Becca Rausch, the first Jewish person to represent the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex District in the Massachusetts Senate, also condemned the incident, noting, “ I am appalled to learn that someone at Franklin High School (Massachusetts) committed the anti-Jewish hate crime of graffitiing a bathroom with swastikas. Appalled, but sadly not surprised.” Sen. Rausch went on to encourage her constituents upset by this incident to reach out, applauded Principal Hanna’s efforts and also pointed her support for the pending legislation at the state level about genocide education. Rausch offered personally, her family story, to help educate the FHS community, and offered to connect constituents with “the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, ADL New England, and others who can provide more (and better) resources.”
After this incident, Franklin Public Schools reached out to the Anti-Defamation League for support,” says Ahearn.
“They did reach out to us, validated our response and provided some additional resources for a long-term framework to consider,” she says.