Oak Park-River Forest High School has been facing multiple incidents of hate speech vandalizing school property. Last week, an outdoor shed was vandalized with vicious language that directly threatened an OPRF teacher, Anthony Clark.
Along with the abhorrent words were drawings of swastikas. After shares and outrage on social media, parents contacted the school and the graffiti was painted over shortly after. This week, a new photo has been making its way around social media that includes writing on tiles at the school. The phrase “white power”, a swastika, and threatening language including “death to blacks and Muslims. Gas the Jews.” are all a part of the latest vandalism.
On Nov. 4, after the first noted incident occurred, about 100 students, teachers, parents, and community members met to protest the hatred and racism outside of the entrance to OPRF school. The demonstration came before a planned meeting to watch America To Me, the documentary featuring OPRF students that covers issues of race and equity within the school system. A petition was created by students with demands for the D200 and D97 school districts. One of the demands is that the high school immediately begin to require a Black History course for all students.
On Tuesday afternoon, Oak Park-River Forest High School’s Executive Director of Communications & Community Relations, Karin Sullivan, released a statement on the school’s Facebook page. In the statement, Sullivan notes that an all-school assembly will be held to discuss the matter with urgency and that they have assembled the crisis team to handle the situation. Further communication has been promised on the matter.
A previously scheduled meeting, “Community Conversation about Hate Crimes in Our Community: Coming Together for Change” is set to take place on Wednesday, Nov. 7 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The event has been co-sponsored by OPRF and Suburban Unity Alliance, a local non-profit led by Anthony Clark. Clark released his own statement on Tuesday. A call to action was the focus of Clark’s statement, asking community members to get involved. Clark said, “If our goal is to make Oak Park & surrounding commUNITYs truly places committed to equality for the sake of our children, then with every ounce of our being, standing up to and stopping hate must be our primary focus and goal.”