Campus incident occurs Dec. 15, Archer leaders respond

On+Dec.+15%2C+a+unknown+individual+wrote+the+N-word+on+a+sticky+note+on+a+bathroom+mirror.+Archer+leaders+are+conducting+an+investigation+into+the+incident.

Photo credit: Greta Irvine

Before winter break, two incidents of hate speech were discovered on sticky notes on a bathroom mirror. Archer leaders are conducting an investigation into the incidents.

By Greta Irvine, News Editor

Two instances of hate speech were discovered on sticky notes on a bathroom mirror before winter break. Head of School Elizabeth English informed the community of the initial incident that occurred on campus in an email on Thursday, Dec. 16, detailing the incident and the actions being taken by Archer leaders.

“Three weeks ago, a sixth grade student wanting to do something positive for her school initiated a ‘self-esteem project’ whereby sticky notes with positive affirmations were posted on a bathroom mirror. For example, notes read ‘You are stronger than you know,’ and ‘You are beautiful,’” English wrote in her email. “Yesterday, however, an act of service that was intended to lift students up was used to hurt and tear others down.”

On one of these affirmations posted on a bathroom mirror, an unknown individual wrote the N-word. The incident was reported to Dean of Student Life, Equity and Inclusion Samantha Hazell-O’Brien, English said, outlining the administrative response to the incident.

“The Archer School for Girls, its Board of Trustees, leadership, faculty and staff condemn in the strongest terms possible the use of any slurs or hate speech,” English wrote.

Archer leaders are conducting an ongoing investigation into the incident, which involves interviewing students and reviewing camera footage. On Jan. 4, English sent another email to the Archer community detailing the second instance of hate speech.

“During the investigation, a student came forward stating that there were also sticky notes with comments about those who identify as Jewish,” English wrote. “Ms. Hazell-O’Brien is actively gathering information in order to investigate further.”

English specifically noted that if individuals come forward on their own, this act will be taken into account when disciplinary action is being discussed. Those who can offer information into who was responsible should contact Hazell-O’Brien.

“The Archer School for Girls is, above all, designed to be a kind and inclusive learning community. The actions of one individual do not and will not change our culture, which is built on our core values of integrity, empathy and responsibility,” English wrote. “We will not tolerate racial discrimination or social cruelty of any kind.”

In her initial email, English linked resources for community members to educate themselves and “help us all combat discrimination and hate.” Some resources included The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “Talking About Race” and NPR’s “Talking Race with Young Children.”

Affinity spaces and other forums will be available to students after winter break. Some students groups have already begun to respond internally.

“I spoke to a lot of my friends and my peers. I spoke to BSU and EBAD, and, all around, we’re just feeling like we need to respond to this. I think now is the time to really strengthen our DEI and our community, really,” Executive Board of Advocacy and Diversity board member Evan Bowman said. “Now, more than ever, in addition to inspecting the event, we also need to look at our community and strengthen our bond and make sure that we’re all in touch with our values as Archer students.”

English concluded her initial email with a message about community response to the incident.

“I do believe that our community will rise to the occasion,” English wrote. “[We will] collectively respond to this act of racism so that our Black students understand without a doubt that they are deeply valued, respected and protected at the Archer School for Girls.”

English concluded her second email by outlining the healing process that is occurring on campus and referencing Archer’s values.

“Collaborating with student leadership groups, students will continue to navigate through this healing process together as a school community, in affinity spaces and mentorship groups,” English wrote. “We thank you for your continued support as we stand together and affirm Archer’s core values of empathy, integrity, and responsibility.”

Correction Statement (Jan. 11, 2022, 12:30 p.m.): The article has been updated to include additional information that has come to light regarding the incident.