High school principal supports student walkout over racist, anti-LGBT graffiti

"LGBTQ staff and students routinely face homophobia and a lack of the comfort and acceptance that heterosexuals feel in our building,” Needham High School Principal Aaron Sicotte wrote in a message to parents and students in response to a recent incident of racist and anti-LGBT graffiti at the school.

When approximately 300 Needham High School students walked out of classes last Friday, December 8, over recent incidents of racist and anti-LGBT graffiti, their principal, Aaron Sicotte let them know they had his full respect.

“LGBTQ staff and students routinely face homophobia and a lack of the comfort and acceptance that heterosexuals feel in our building,” Sicotte wrote in a message to parents and students. “Our Jewish and Muslim students are also often targeted. This unfortunate list continues through every minority group at Needham High School.”

While school administrators could not condone students leaving their classrooms, Sicotte told the Boston Globe, he had the “utmost respect” for them, describing the hour-long walkout as “very respectful, very orderly [and] very nicely handled.”

According to the Globe:

Asked whether any students would be punished for organizing or joining the walkout, he said “I’m not looking to try to squelch student voices.”

In two separate messages to parents and students this week, Sicotte had written that racial and anti-gay slurs were discovered in school bathrooms, decrying the graffiti as “repulsive” and “hate speech.”

He said Friday that none of the vandals have been identified, but an investigation is ongoing.

Sicotte is legally barred from expelling students for such conduct, he said.

The principal declined to say whether any cases have been reported to law enforcement, but he stressed that every harassment report is taken “very seriously” and prompts “a thorough investigation.”

In addition, he said the graffiti incidents were immediately reported to the school resource officer.

“We are continually working to make sure [the school] is a welcoming, respectful, safe environment,” he said. …

In his prior note two days earlier, Sicotte had called the racist graffiti “unacceptable,” writing, “When racist slurs are written on our walls, we are not a safe place.”