The rock outside the Bromfield School had always served as a canvas for students to spread positive messages. But on Friday, the large sloping rock was vandalized, covered with swastikas, hate speech and sexist imagery. A "Trump 2016" sign was also scrawled across the center.
The next day, armed with cans of white paint, brushes and rollers, students at the school in Harvard painted over the hate messages, taking back their “senior rock.”
"Students want their school to be known for all great reasons Harvard’s ever been known for, and this felt like an affront to them," Harvard Public Schools Superintendent Linda Dwight said Monday. "This is not what they want their town to be known for and certainly not what they want their school district to be known for. Students are ready to take back the message and show the world that all students matter."
After having applied the white primer paint, students plan to paint a positive design by the end of the week, Dwight said. The Bromfield School serves about 700 students in grades six through 12. Harvard is a rural community about 35 miles northwest of Boston.
“The students are working to address the vandalism and we have an opportunity to support them as they confront hateful imagery and all that it represents,” Bromfield graduate Emma Franzeim wrote in a Go Fund Me page she created. The campaign raised more than $1,500 in two days for painting supplies and to help continue efforts by students to spread positive “community spirit.”
Using the remaining funds, Dwight said the school district planned to bring in a speaker to discuss the issue. Students and teachers continued the conversation about hate speech Monday morning with a schoolwide assembly where they discussed the vandalism, and were given strategies for dealing with hateful rhetoric.
In a letter she wrote to students, parents and the community just after the vandalism was discovered, Dwight condemned the hateful messages.
“We ask that the senior class rededicate their rock to expressions of hope for the future, including tolerance that reflects the diversity of our town and the student body as they have done so well in the past,” she said.
Harvard Police and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office are investigating the incident.
Police encouraged anyone with information about the vandalism to call 978-456-8276 or leave an anonymous tip on the department’s website.