Superintendent Marseille sent out this email to the school community this afternoon,
Dear WSSD Families and Community,
As Thanksgiving week begins, this is not the message that I wished to write to you. This morning, I was extremely disheartened and saddened to learn that a racial slur, the N-word, was written on two exterior doors at WES. Mr. Savage is working with the Nether Providence Police Department to investigate and see what more we can learn about what happened and who is responsible.
In the meantime, I want to be clear, hate will not be allowed to live here. Unfortunately, this is not the first incident where someone has offended our family with this type of language. As we continue the important work that needs to be done, I would like to think that this will be the last.
However, we know that unless every single member of this community does their part in helping to educate themselves, their colleagues, and their friends about what it means to be culturally proficient, what it means to live in an inclusive community, and what it means to have dignity of belonging, change will not happen. This is why my work – our work – with equity and the implementation of an equity audit – will lay the foundation for this to become systemic work. Part of the task we are undertaking is to identify student ambassadors in each school who will work with cultural proficiency teacher-leaders to make this endeavor integral to WSSD.
I believe that cultural proficiency work tied to diversity, equity and inclusion belongs in every single building and is a responsibility that we all carry. It must become the fabric of our institution and the community rather than just individuals working alone. As I have shared with you in my Entry Plan and in our community conversations, we must first get to know each other before we can have difficult conversations. Let’s continue to get to know each other, share our stories, and work together.
I ask our community to take ownership of this work. We have fallen short so many times before and that is why this work has to be deliberate and intentional. When incidents like this occur, we must and will come together to collectively address them and heal.
I will follow up with Mr. Savage regarding this incident, and we will let you know of any updates. I want to stress to you that we are determined to do what is necessary to eradicate hate and continue to promote belonging, inclusivity, and acceptance in our schools.
Wagner Marseille, Ed.D.
Update – the superintendent sent a follow-up email on Nov. 23rd and the Inquirer has a piece here.
Dear Families and Staff,
I want to follow up with you regarding my communication yesterday about the racist graffiti at Wallingford Elementary School. I have been in communication with Mr. Savage, the Nether Providence chief of police, and other administrators who have been gathering additional information as this continues to be an active investigation.
I have received a number of news inquiries regarding this incident which has already made its way to multiple outlets. I want to remind you not to let this story define who we are. There are attempts to connect this incident to others in the past. I cannot speak for the past, but can only forge a new direction forward.
I do not believe that this incident reflects who we are as a community. I was offended by that word, a word that is not new to me. I forgive the individual or individuals who wrote that. At the conclusion of our investigation, we hope to find whoever was responsible because the real story here is not the use of a racial epithet. It is what was in the mind and in the heart of whoever wrote it. That is what we need to focus on together, so that we can better support that individual or individuals so they may better understand their impact on our community.
Our responses and long-term actions are what will help us write the next chapter moving forward. We will continue to exemplify our belief in being respectful, being responsible, and being safe. Let’s continue to live up to those ideals, and, at the same time, strive to better ourselves as a community.
Wagner Marseille, Ed.D.
The WES PTO has also posted a few pictures of the artwork done by the children in response.