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14 AHS vandalism suspects draw scrutiny; police release hate data

Arlington Police patch logoUPDATED, May 9: In a joint news release Tuesday, May 8, Chief Frederick Ryan and Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Bodie report that a joint investigation has identified about 14 male suspects following a break-in and vandalism at Arlington High School on May 1-2.

They face discipline by the Arlington Public Schools that is consistent with the school district's code of conduct and values as a community. The police department investigation remains ongoing.

Chief Ryan told on May 9 that the students were "playing a prank that went drastically awry." He told the website that parents were cooperating and he hoped the investigation would conclude by next week.

YourArlington reported May 7 that the police chief told a leader of the Rainbow Commission that as many as 12 people may have been involved in the vandalism.

The school district and police department are consulting with the Arlington Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Defamation League and the newly formed Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission to determine the best possible response.

"This is a serious situation, and it requires a holistic and deliberative approach to find the correct solution that addresses the wrong and repairs the breach to the community," Ryan said in the release. "This is an incident that has been taken seriously by our officers from the start."

Added Superintendent Bodie: "These actions represent a terrible breach of the peace and harmony we seek to instill as a welcoming, tolerant, and safe community. Whether these students intended to or not, their words and actions are hateful and hurtful, and we must respond appropriately."

Meanwhile, a source said May 9 that hearings with parents are taking place with Principal Matthew Janger and that police have interviewed some of the 14. School and police leaders have been asked to comment. The principal has not responded.

A police spokesman declined tio comment, referring a reporter to a news release. The police report of the May 2-3 incident details the "prank" and subsequent behavior, but many details are redacted.

Apart from the release, police have released, at YourArlington's request, the number of hate incidents in town in the past five years, which show a range of 13 in 2017, rising from two reported in 2013.

Mel Goldsipe, vice chair of the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission, wrote to the Arlington List Facebook group May 4 that she had spoken to Chief Fred Ryan, who called her from the airport before boarding a plane back to Boston from some work he was doing in Washington, D.C., regarding the opiate crisis.

"Chief Ryan said 12 people had been identified and they are working on getting their confessions ...," she wrote.

No arrests as of May 4

Asked May 4 whether there had been arrests, Capt. Richard Flynn responded there had been none so far. "Our investigation into that matter is ongoing," he wrote.

YourArlington also asked him to provide the number of hate incidents over the past five years. The listing Flynn provided is at the end of this story.

Of the 13 incidents reported in 2017, nine of them were anti-Semitic. Through May 2 this year, five such incidents were reported. They include the most recent, at AHS, and two at Ottoson in February.

A number in 2016 and 2015 were connected to vandalism of the Black Lives Matter banner at the First Unitarian Church. One of the suspects caught in the case later served "time" -- not in prison, but by participating in restorative justice

How earlier suspect 'paid'

Under that program, the suspect made restitution to the church for the damage and performed community service to avoid a criminal charge of destruction of a place of worship. That included participating in meetings with church members in which the suspect took responsibility and saw from the view of church members the effect of the damage, physically and emotionally.

"I want to commend the work of our investigators, the witness who came forward, and our terrific partners in the First Parish Unitarian Church for their work in response to this misinformed act," Chief Ryan said in a news release at the time. "This is the perfect case for a restorative justice solution. The suspect in this case will be required to give back to the community that was wronged by his actions. Ultimately, the goal of restorative justice is to repair the breach between the offender and the community."

Incidents of hate in Arlington go much farther back than five years. In 1994, a year after the town's Human Rights Commission was established, leaflets touting views of the Ku Klux Klan were strewn about town. A former school superintendent, a former selectwoman and a current school officials all received letters expressing anti-Semitic views.

In releasing this data, Capt. Flynn wrote that "the incidents were either labeled Hate Incident/Crimes OR mentioned involving the Human Rights Commission":

2018: (5; the dates were provided by police)

Vandalism, Anti-Homosexual (May 2, AHS)

Assault, Anti-Islamic (Jan. 15, Mass. Ave.)

Vandalism, Anti-Black (Feb. 20, Bike path)

Vandalism, Anti-Jewish (Feb. 7, Ottoson)

Vandalism, Anti-Jewish (Feb. 5, Ottoson)  Read Globe story >>

2017: (13; the numbers to the left are for town police tracking)*

17002021: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17003439: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17004090: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17005368: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17008349: Vandalism, Anti-Black

17008411: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17009186: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17014678: Aggravated Assault, Anti-Black

17001851: Vandalism, Anti-Homosexual

17015645: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17019235: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17002021: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

17012068: Vandalism, Anti-Homosexual

2016: (9) 

16007746: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

16007945: Vandalism, Anti-black/Anti-Jewish

16008417: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

16005201: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

16015563: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

16019204: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

16020356: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

16020426: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

16030346: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish/Anti-Muslim

2015: (3) 

1502395: Black Lives Matter Sign damaged

15011515:Vandalism, Anti-Hindu

15014624: Vandalism, Anti-Jewish

2014: (2) 

14005631: Vandalism, Anti-Homosexual

14005007: Hate Mail, Anti-Jewish

Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

May 5, 2018: SLURS: Police report reveals some facts, a source some others 
May 2, 2018: How public, principal responded after homophobic graffiti found at AHS 
March 3, 2016: Defaced 'black lives matter' banner gets Holy Week repair 
Dec. 2, 2015: Suspect in banner defacing caught, faces restorative justice 
Oct. 28, 2015: 'Black lives matter' banner restored as other churches express support

This news summary was published on Monday, May 7, 2018, and updated May 9, to add a link and further information.

* Details would be available only if the report for each tracking number was requested.

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