Arlington Officials Respond to Spate of Bias-Motivated Incidents


Last week, school officials found anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on a bathroom wall at the Ottoson Middle School. This past weekend, Arlington police spotted a large banner advertising a known hate group hanging over Route 2 on the Arlington side.  Multiple incidents of anti-LGBTQIA+, racist and homophobic graffiti has been found around town, including at Arlington High School.

Arlington Police removed the hate group's banner and are actively investigating all reports of hate graffiti.

In response to this incident as well as a recent spate of other acts of bias in Arlington schools and on public and private property, Police Chief Julie Flaherty, Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Homan, Director of Health and Human Services Christine Bongiorno, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Jill Harvey, and the co-chairs of the Arlington Human Rights Commission and the Arlington Rainbow Commission met and are today responding to the acts and reminding residents of resources available to residents:

“Over the past few months, there has been an increase in bias-related incidents in Arlington schools and on public and private property. These acts have included the theft of tolerance-affirming lawn signs from private residences, multiple instances of hateful graffiti,” said Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty. “The Arlington Police Department works to ensure that Arlington’s residents, employees, and visitors are safe. These acts of bias are deeply disturbing to the peace and safety of our community. In addition to our investigations, we continue to work proactively with our community partners to keep Arlington safe.” 

“In the Arlington Public Schools, we report all instances of hate speech and discrimination to the Arlington Human Rights Commission, LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission and Arlington Police Department. We also inform members of the school community so that we can partner with students and families to create inclusive environments and effectively investigate instances of hate and bias,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Liz Homan. “In addition to these actions, we are continuously and proactively expanding programming for students and professional learning for staff designed to create, cultivate, and sustain inclusive and affirming environments for all students and staff. This work is vital and necessary because we know that when students do not feel safe at school, it is hard for them to learn at school.” 

“The people targeted by these hateful acts are those who are typically marginalized—Black Indigenous and People of Color, people who are LGBTQIA+, people who are Jewish, and people who share multiple identities,” said Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Jill Harvey. “It is incredibly important that town leadership makes it clear to those who have been targeted that we support them and affirm their belonging and place in Arlington. It is equally important that town leaders make it clear to those perpetrating these acts that their behavior is offensive, inappropriate and, in some instances, a violation of the law and will not be tolerated. We encourage anyone who has experienced an act of bias to report it to the Human Rights Commission. We have 30 years of experience helping those who have experienced discrimination obtain some form of justice and resolution,” said Arlington Human Rights Commission Co-Chair Christine Carney. “No one should experience prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, unlawful discrimination, threats, coercion, or intimidation.” 

“We are disheartened by these acts of bias. But we are encouraged by the seriousness with which they are being taken by police and school officials,” said LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission Co-Chair Helene Newberg. “We encourage any resident or employee of Arlington experiencing anti-LGBTQIA+ bias to be in touch with the Rainbow Commission for assistance.”

Additionally, the Town of Arlington and Arlington Police Department have been in contact with the Anti-Defamation League, and further announcements about resources, investigative progress or town events will be made jointly by these same partner agencies in Arlington.

"Arlington prides itself on coming together in the face of adversity. We meet all challenges as a community, and we are not afraid to call out this kind of hatred and bigotry in our community," said Town Manager Sandy Pooler. "We will not be intimidated, and we will not sit quietly and allow any resident of Arlington to feel unsafe or unwelcome in our town."