Police launched an investigation Thursday after swastikas, an antigay slur, and references to President-elect Donald Trump were found scrawled in bathrooms at a Bucks County high school, part of a wave of incidents swirling around the contentious presidential election.
Harassing messages or vandalism were found in three student bathrooms at Council Rock North High School, Superintendent Robert Fraser wrote in an email to the Council Rock School District. Latino students had also been targeted with inappropriate comments, he said, including one girl who found a note in her backpack "telling her to return to Mexico."
Reports of similar incidents have been bubbling across the state in the aftermath of Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton and campaign style, often assailed as polarizing and divisive.
In Philadelphia, police said a woman in Bella Vista found "Trump 2016" and "Black Bitch" spray-painted on her car Wednesday morning. They also were probing the discovery of a swastika, and the phrases "Sieg Heil 2016" and "Trump," painted on a storefront in Point Breeze, and another swastika next to the word "Trump" painted on a utility box a few blocks away.
York, Pa., police said school officials there disciplined two students who "paraded a Trump sign through the halls" of York County School of Technology, and another student who yelled "white power." A widely shared video of the chants sparked outrage on social media.
And at Southern Lehigh High School near Bethlehem, Pa., administrators held a student assembly late last week to address racist and homophobic slurs against students, and incidents including the carving of swastikas onto bathroom stalls, according to the Allentown Morning Call.
None of those incidents included specific references to the presidential candidates, but school officials scheduled the assembly to help persuade students to "do a better job of respecting one another," the principal wrote in a letter the newspaper obtained.
In his message to the district Thursday, the Bucks County superintendent said two swastikas had been found scrawled in a boys' bathroom stall. In a girls' bathroom, "on a hanging piece of paper someone wrote 'I Love Trump,' a derogatory comment about people who are gay, and drew three swastikas," Fraser reported. And in another girls' lavatory, the phrase "If Trump wins, watch out!" was written on a toilet-paper dispenser.
The disclosure of the incidents drew strong reaction, including on a district parents' Facebook page. The page administrator warned that offensive comments were being deleted and offenders would be barred.
"Sadly, the recent election results are being used as a 'free pass' to publicly express hatred against persons of different color, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, economic class etc.," wrote Joanne Calibeo. "Unfortunately, these attitudes have been learned and cultivated over a period of time. These bad attitudes do not belong to any particular political party. We parents have much work to do in raising our children to respect, care for and love all people. Let's get to work!"
On a different Facebook page, a former Council Rock North student expressed dismay. Alumna Caryn Sarah, 27, said in an interview that she had been insulted as a student a decade ago by classmates who taunted her for being Jewish.
But adults responded quickly when she brought to their attention that students threw pennies at her or mocked her curly hair and nose, said Sarah, who lives in Yardley and works as a family therapist.
Newtown police confirmed their investigation but said they had no details to release by Thursday evening.
In his note, the superintendent said such actions would not be tolerated. "We are better than this," he wrote, "and ours is a community that must be based upon a mutual respect for ALL people, and ALL of Council Rock."