Police and school officials in Howard County have identified a student involved in drawing a swastika and a phallic symbol in the snow at Howard High School over the weekend, according to Howard County police.
School staff discovered the drawings in the snow on the field hockey field Tuesday morning and brushed the images away with a broom, according to school and police officials.
Howard Principal Nick Novak wrote a letter to the community about the incident Tuesday saying that the student body had been addressed and encouraged to share information about suspects.
“This hateful act goes against the values we share at Howard High School and will not be tolerated,” Novak wrote in the statement. “All acts of hateful language are taken seriously and please know that this will be fully investigated in cooperation with the HCPD and the HCPSS Office of Safety & Security.”
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball issued a statement Tuesday, saying, “I was very saddened and disappointed to hear about the incident which took place at Howard High School over the weekend. We cannot and will not tolerate symbols of hate in our county. Howard County should be a community of diversity, inclusion, and respect. We cannot allow hateful acts to intimidate and divide us.”
Officials have not identified the student, who has not been charged with a crime.
“While this may not officially be considered a crime, we strongly condemn this act of hate and will hold the responsible person accountable to the extent permitted by our discipline policy,” wrote Mavis Ellis, Howard County Public School System Board of Education chair, and Michael J. Martirano, HCPSS superintendent, in a statement Wednesday.
They have urged parents to engage children in conversations about “acceptance of all people” and “practicing civility.”
Reports of hate-related vandalism in schools have been on the rise in recent years. They nearly doubled to 62 in 2017, from 34 the year before, according to Maryland State Police records.
Four seniors at Glenelg High School, also in Howard County, were charged with hate crimes after they allegedly spray-painted a racial epithet targeting Glenelg’s principal, who is black, “KKK” and swastikas on the school’s sidewalks, exterior walls and parking lot in May last year.
Joshua Shaffer of Mount Airy and Seth Taylor of Glenwood, both 19, have pleaded guilty to hate crimes and will be spending weekends in jail and serving community service, among other penalties.
Tyler Curtiss, 18, of Brookeville was found guilty this month after pleading not guilty and agreeing to a statement of facts. His plea deal also involves serving weekends in jail, community service and other penalties.
A fourth student, Matthew Lipp, 18, of Woodbine, is scheduled for a trial Feb. 6.
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Prosecutors allege Curtiss, Shaffer, Taylor and Lipp wore hoods and masks and spray-painted swastikas and racial epithets on school property at about 11:30 p.m. May 23. The following morning, damage estimated at more than $2,000 was found at the school’s main entrance, the stadium press box, bleachers, exterior walls, an area near the tennis courts and other locations. Police said video surveillance and other means were used to identify the four teens.