ARLINGTON — Police Chief Julie Flaherty, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine report that the Arlington Police Department is investigating following the vandalism of a banner outside Arlington High School that reads “We Believe Black Lives Matter.”
Police responded to a report of the vandalism at 9:29 a.m. today. Upon arrival, police spoke with a custodian, who reported that a banner hung on the construction fence facing Massachusetts Avenue on the campus of Arlington High School had been vandalized with spray paint. The banner was removed at approximately 8:15 a.m. after the damage was discovered, the custodian reported to police.
Arlington Police are actively investigating the incident, and are asking anyone with information regarding the vandalism to call the department at 781-643-1212.
“We are thoroughly investigating this incident and treating it with the utmost seriousness,” Chief Flaherty said. “This act of vandalism not only damaged school property, but it sent a hurtful message to the entire community that contradicts the shared values the banner was meant to convey.”
The banner was mounted on the construction fence earlier this summer on the school’s campus in an effort by the district to express a unified statement that Black Lives Matter. The idea to hang the banner came in the wake of conversations between administrators and the school’s Black Student Union and Arlington High School Anti-Racism Working Group, whose membership includes students, staff, administration, and parents.
“We’re very disappointed that this banner was defaced as it was a way for students, teachers and administrators to state a shared principle for the school. It is very painful to see it vandalized,” Superintendent Bodie said. “We are thankful to the Arlington Police Department for investigating this matter. In the meantime, we will prioritize repairing or replacing the banner so that it can continue to serve as a visible reminder of our commitment to community-building for and among students, faculty, and staff alike. This only reinforces the importance of our ongoing efforts to further promote diversity, equity and inclusion at APS.”
Arlington High School Principal Matthew Janger has reached out to the Black Student Union, the Arlington High School Anti-Racism Working Group, the Arlington Human Rights Commission, and district and town leadership to continue discussions regarding diversity, equity and inclusion in the district.
“Vandalism like this is a painful reminder of how much work we must continue to do to become a safe, supportive, and inclusive town. The AHRC is deeply committed to continuing to work with all members of our community to deepen understanding and expand dialogue to help create a more welcoming Arlington,” said Co-Chair of the Arlington Human Rights Commission Sharon Grossman,
“For my part, I’d ask whoever did this to do two things,” said Town Manager Chapdelaine. “First, to think about their actions and consider how hurtful they are to people in our community. Next, I’d ask them to learn more about our nation’s history and the lasting presence and impacts of structural racism. I suggest this because, once one fully confronts the history of our nation, it’s hard to disagree with the need to state clearly and plainly that Black Lives Matter.”
The Town of Arlington and Arlington Public Schools began holding an ongoing series of Community Conversations about Racism and Reforms this June. This incident underscores the need for these conversations and that much more work needs to be done in Arlington. Learn more at arlingtonma.gov/communityconversations.