Last Friday afternoon—as Sturgis Charter Public School students were finishing up their first week back to school—administrators at the west campus were alerted to a swastika scrawled on the wall of a stall in the boys’ bathroom.

The school administration was quick to act.

“We have secured the bathroom, alerted the local authorities, and are actively investigating the incident as we reach out to experts to help inform our response,” wrote Paul Marble, Sturgis’ executive director, in an email to parents on the day of the incident.

“Please know that our guidance counselors are available in the coming school days as your children process their emotions from this incident.”

This week, Sturgis parents received an update from Mr. Marble.

“On Tuesday morning, Jennifer Kirk—West Principal—held a West faculty meeting about the incident, and after consulting with the Anti-Defamation League and personnel from other schools, we constructed an appropriate advisory lesson that West students were guided through today,” he wrote in this latest email. “Please know that anyone at Sturgis who engages in racist acts and/or targets others because of their skin color, gender, religion, sexual identity or culture will face serious consequences.”

Really?

Police?

Emotional support?

The Anti-Defamation League?

A special advisory lesson for students?

All this over bathroom graffiti? Isn’t this overkill?

Absolutely not.

Sturgis administrators did everything right.

Even though chances are the swastika was just some random act of mindless graffiti—nothing more—it needs to be treated as if it were much more.

It needs to be treated as hate speech.

There are some, we’re sure, who will sicker at what they consider Sturgis’ overreaction in this case. Let them. Just know that these people are wrong. They have their heads in the sand.

In today’s world—a world that seems to be brimming with discontent and aggression; a world where the list of adults and children gunned down in office buildings, stores, and in classrooms has grown sickeningly long—it would be negligent to consider a swastika in a school bathroom as anything less than an overt threat. Just in case.

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