York administration confronts nooses found on football field as a hate crime
January 25, 2021
On Jan. 17, a group of adults playing soccer in the York High School Football Stadium found two rope nooses attached to the metal bleachers. Two taped messages reading “Let them play!” and “Hear us now! Please!” were attached to the rope. The adults notified Elmhurst CUSD 205 and the Elmhurst Police Department the following Monday. While the suspects and motive of the event remains unknown, the EPD continues investigation into the possible hate crime. The district placed security cameras in the location and increased police presence for York and the surrounding areas.
“Elmhurst Police evidence technicians have processed the scene at the football field,” Superintendent David Moyer said in an email to families. “The incident is under active investigation by the Elmhurst Police Department as a possible hate crime to determine the motive and identify the suspect(s).”
Regardless of intent, York Principle Shahe Bagdasarian operated the investigation into the event as a racially charged hate crime. The event occurred over the long Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, and the noose can be associated with acts of racial violence throughout United States history.
“Regardless of that, there is a connection,” Bagdasarian said. “The symbolism behind that is with lynching and with hate crime. We have to connect those two pieces together at this point. Hate will not be tolerated at our school.”
After last month’s racist social media activity from a York student, the high school reemphasized their commitment to change any racist culture in our schools. This semester, a consultant firm will work with York staff on team equity. Next year, York plans on working with Seattle nonprofit Equal Opportunity Schools. The organization partners with school districts to ensure students of color obtain equal access to rigorous coursework, including Honors and AP courses. York is also working to hire more staff members of color.
“It is not just about me saying ‘we do not tolerate that’,” Bagdasarian said. “Everyone understands and knows that. It is more about ‘this is what we are doing to address this going forward. This is what we are doing to change the culture going forward in our building and community’…I think when you have actions and steps behind those beliefs, there is less of a reactionary mode where we have to react to everything. This is a part of the culture of our building, this is what we do, and this is how we are going to make sure all of our students feel safe, especially those who have not felt welcome or safe in our building.”
If any York students feel concerned about the weekend’s event, the district and York administration encourage reaching out to a counselor or social worker. Furthermore, if students need any emotional support during the unprecedented school year, they should consult a trusted adult at York.
“I would suggest that if any student is feeling stress, worry or any other emotion related to the events of last weekend, that they should talk to their family or reach out to their counselor or social worker for support,” Assistant Principal of Student Services Meredith Sheriff said. “Our number one priority is for students to feel physically and emotionally safe at York, and we are here to support them if they have any questions or just need someone to talk to.”
Bagdasarian encourages any community members or students with knowledge of the event to report it to the EPD or school district. As of Monday, the school district continues to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
“If people have any information regarding that or if they know anything, we encourage them to come forward to the school administration or to the Elmhurst Police Department,” Bagdasarian said. “We want to make sure we address it as well…This is much bigger than York High School; it is bigger than Elmhurst, but we can control what we can control. We will do everything that we can to support kids in that way.”