Writing on the wall: racial hate notes found at York, Elmhurst College in late October

Elmhurst College closed its campus for several days in late October due to threatening graffiti found in dorms and the library.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Elmhurst College closed its campus for several days in late October due to threatening graffiti found in dorms and the library.

By Mary Kett, York Community High School

On Oct. 24, a hate note with racial overtones was found in a boys restroom at York. While the note indicated it was meant to be a joke, York administration and the Elmhurst Police Department investigated the matter and determined no credible threat. As a precaution, police presence at school increased following the incident. 

Two days earlier, a similar, more extreme occurrence happened less than a mile away at Elmhurst College’s campus, which was closed on Oct. 28 and 29 due to a slew of threats found, according to student newspaper The Leader. 

First, on Oct. 21, racist and homophobic slurs were found in a residence hall bathroom. Additional slurs involving the N-word were found in the same restroom the next day, and that night, shooting threats targeting Elmhurst College students were found. More graffiti was found at the library and another residence hall, resulting in the college’s closing Monday, Oct. 28 and Tuesday, Oct. 29. Both York and Elmhurst College have made it clear that they condemn such hate speech. 

“The safety of our students and staff remains our top priority,’’ Superintendent David Moyer said in a District 205-wide email. “We will continue to be transparent and proactive when communicating safety information with parents and the school community.”

While these unsettling incidents happened within just a few days of one another, the Elmhurst police department found no connection between the two.

“I had heard about the Elmhurst college incidents between my concerns for my school,” Principal Erin DeLuga said. “As far as we know, there was no connection between the two. But knowing that, I took it upon myself to advocate for the increased police presence of security inside and outside of the building so that our students were feeling a larger layer of safety.”

Members of the Elmhurst community expressed dismay for the kind of hate speech found at Elmhurst college. One Elmhurst parent posted on the Elmhurst Moms Facebook group regarding racial slurs being used towards her children on the Sandburg Middle School bus.

“My sons take the late bus home from Sandburg and have had incidents with a kid saying [the N word] to bother them…” the parent said. “The rest of the kids just sat and laughed. As parents, we can help to change this by telling our kids to stand up and just tell the kid it isn’t cool.”

York’s Black Student Union reacted to the event that happened in Elmhurst.

“I think that the whole situation is horrific and disturbing,” senior Black Student Union Member Yareliz Klein said. “It makes me feel very uncomfortable in my own neighborhood, somewhere I’ve been living the majority of my life.”

York’s Black Student Union addresses the use of the N-word in their letter published here.

“I’ve lived in this area for basically all of my life and have never had to fear for my safety, but after hearing of these events, it seems like racism is getting closer and more threatening,” senior Zikora Nnam, president of York BSU said.

This story was originally published on This is York on December 19, 2019.