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Anti-Defamation League


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Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund

Funded By

Office of Juvenile Deliquency Prevention U.S. Department of Justice


Safe and Drug Free Schools Program U.S. Department of Education

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program.

Issue/Question:
Someone has repeatedly written "nigger" on the bathroom walls of our school. It's usually in chalk or washable marker. Is this a hate crime? Should we call the police?

Suggested Response:

The children in your school need to understand that it is wrong to write any kind of racial slur anywhere. However, if the writing is in washable marker or chalk and can be easily erased, it is not considered a hate crime. It may be hard to get the police involved in an incident of washable graffiti on a bathroom wall. However, if a good working relationship has been established with local law enforcement then they will most likely want to be alerted to the incident and offer their assistance to keep such incidents from reoccurring.

It is a good idea to take a picture of the graffiti in case the behavior continues, but as soon as possible, wash the wall to remove the hurtful language. Leaving language that demeans any group of people visible for any length of time is demoralizing to the group targeted and can poison the atmosphere of the school.

Encourage children to report graffiti that they see in the school to an adult. Also use the situation to talk with students about everyone's responsibility to fight hate. Help students understand that helping to remove hateful words, pictures, or symbols from areas in and around their school is an important way that they can act against bias and hate. It also sends a message to the perpetrators of bias-motivated behavior that everyone does not share their thinking.
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