Fellow superintendents from more than 30 nearby school districts came together Thursday to show support for the leader of schools in Wayland, Massachusetts, after racist graffiti targeted him.
A message equating Superintendent Omar Easy, who is Black, with a racist slur was written at the Wayland Community Pool, located next to Wayland High School. Police and school officials are investigating.
"The past couple days, I felt like I should just stay home, but I do know that coming in the office is the best message for me," Easy said. "The support is here, and I'm grateful and thankful for my team."
Dozens of superintendents stood alongside Easy Thursday.
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"Immediately, colleagues across the state wanted to offer support and speak with one voice to denounce this is not acceptable," Wellesley Superintendent David Lussier said.
"What we tell our children is we're not going to cover up what we used to do. Years ago, we might literally whitewash the graffiti and try to move on. We're not doing that anymore. We're going to call out racism," said Needham Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst.
"The antidote is to create that belonging for everyone, so if we rise up in this way against these actions, we are going to create the bomb that will make everyone feel better and more included," added Natick Superintendent Anna Nolin.
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A day earlier, students posted signs of unity condemning the hateful graffiti.
"We do not tolerate any acts of hate in Wayland and we want to reassure our community that we are taking this incident very seriously. The person or people found responsible for this hateful message will be held accountable," acting Wayland Police Chief Ed Burman said in a statement.
Easy, a former fullback in the NFL, oversees a predominantly white district. He told NBC10 Boston in February that the job's inherent challenges drew him to the position.
"Most of the time, I'm the only Black person in the room, but it doesn't bother me. I know why I'm here: To ensure every child in the district gets a fair shake," Easy said at the time.
Police in Wayland said they have been in contact with the Anti-Defamation League New England.
Racist graffiti also targeted a school official in Quincy, with the words "we want a white principal" being found inside a bathroom stall at the city's high school. Keith Ford, the first person of color to hold that position, wrote in a letter that hateful behavior will not be tolerated.
In Concord last week, 53-year-old parent John Grace was arrested after allegedly threatening to use a weapon against Superintendent Laurie Hunter.
A recent report from the FBI on hate crimes shows the third-highest numbers reported in a decade, even amid concerns that the data is incomplete.
Anyone with information is asked to call Wayland police at 508-358-4721.
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