'Nearly identical' antisemitic graffiti found at 3 Toronto high schools
TDSB says 'hateful vandalism' likely happened overnight, police say hate crimes unit 'fully engaged'
"Nearly identical" antisemitic graffiti was found at three Toronto schools on Wednesday morning and Toronto police say the vandalism may be linked.
Police are investigating the graffiti as possible hate crimes, according to Const. Alex Li, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service.
The three schools, all part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), are Central Technical School, Rosedale Heights School of the Arts and Malvern Collegiate Institute.
"These are being treated as hate-motivated and our Hate Crime Unit is fully engaged," Li said in an email on Wednesday. "Due to the similarities in each incident, investigators are exploring whether they are linked."
The graffiti was discovered on the outside of Central Technical High School and Rosedale Heights School of the Arts. It was found on a container on the grounds of Malvern Collegiate Institute.
Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the TDSB, said in a statement on Wednesday that the graffiti is "nearly identical" at all three schools.
"In all cases, this hateful vandalism appears to have occurred overnight," Bird said.
"We are working with Toronto police to provide any assistance that we can as they continue to investigate these incidents which are harmful and completely unacceptable on or off school property."
Incident 'completely unacceptable,' principal says
In a letter to parents and caregivers on Wednesday, Sandy Kaskens, principal of Malvern Collegiate Institute, said the graffiti was found at the back of the school near an exit door.
Kaskens said the school administration immediately called police to report the vandalism.
"At Malvern CI we take great pride in our school as a welcoming, safe, and inclusive place so this is not only very upsetting — particularly for those in the Jewish community — but a completely unacceptable incident. Acts of antisemitism, racism, and all forms of discrimination, will not be tolerated," Kaskens said in the letter.
The graffiti appeared after three antisemitic incidents at Toronto public schools in February.
According to B'nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group, the incidents were as follows:
- On Feb. 24, two students at Pleasant Public School gave the Hitler salute to a Jewish teacher in a Grade 6 classroom. The students kept their arms raised for a lengthy period despite the teacher's request to stop.
- On Feb. 17, three Grade 8 students at Valley Park Middle School surrounded a Jewish teacher, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and gave her the Hitler salute.
- On Feb. 1, two students at Charles H. Best Middle School gave a Hitler salute in front of classmates.
In response, the TDSB has said it will increase educational programming about antisemitism and the Holocaust.
Board to focus on educating students about hate
Colleen Russell-Rawlins, TDSB's director of education, said in a Feb. 22 statement: "This is an urgent situation and we must interrupt and confront racism, discrimination and hate, in all of its forms, when we see or hear it.
"It is my commitment that we focus on eradicating it at both the systemic and local school levels and that we will move toward more proactively educating about the roots of racism and hate."
Education is crucial to combating racism and hate, she said.
"Helping students, parents and staff understand and address hate, including antisemitism, is essential to preventing it. Together, we must create safe, inclusive and respectful school environments where all students, staff and families are welcome and treated with respect," she said.