A racial slur was written on two exterior doors at Wallingford Elementary School Monday, according to a letter sent to parents by Wallingford-Swarthmore School District Superintendent Wagner Marseille.
In the letter, Marseille said the school principal is working with the Nether Providence Police Department to find who is responsible.
“When incidents like this occur, we must and will come together to collectively address them and heal,” wrote Marseille, who could not be reached for additional comment Tuesday.
One parent said families were invited to write messages of kindness with chalk outside the school Monday afternoon.
The discovery of the racial slur at the elementary school is not the first incident of its kind in the district.
In late 2018, Strath Haven High School students staged a walkout after two racist incidents rocked the community. In one instance, four students were sent racist letters to their Swarthmore homes. In the other, a photo of two people wearing hoods resembling those worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan made the rounds on social media.
In May 2020, the district learned a racist and threatening video featuring two students was circulating in the community.
According to the most recent school demographic data available, the district is about 82% white. Asian students (7%) and Black students (5%) account for the second- and third-largest demographic groups.
Marseille, who is Haitian and has been superintendent since July 1, has been open about how personal experience with bullying has made him sensitive to how students are treated in schools.
In an interview this September, Marseille told Strath Haven High School senior Morgan McErlean that while unfortunate, he was not surprised by these instances of racial insensitivity and shared plans to address the underlying causes.
While challenging, Marseille said schools needed to be intentional when talking about their core values. The district, he said, was going to do that by taking part in an equity audit.
“We are going to have a company, an organization come in here, and they are going to review our practices to see what it means to be an equitable school district,” Marseille said. “Whether it is equity between and amongst our students, or equity between our staff.”
In Marseille’s letter to parents this week, he said implementing the equity audit as well as becoming culturally proficient as a community would be part of the work that he hoped would make Monday’s discovery the district’s last.
“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,” said Marseille.