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Racist graffiti scrawled on Springdale High wall

| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001

SPRINGDALE: Crews were still scrubbing the walls of Springdale High School on Monday afternoon, trying to wash away words and symbols of hatred that were discovered on the outside walls Sunday morning.

Six-foot-high racist graffiti formed with black enamel paint and visible from the road were discovered at about 8 a.m. Sunday.

Allegheny Valley School District Superintendent Ronald Wasilak said racial epithets and expletives were painted several times, along with the first name of a black student and a noose.

The words 'You will die' and a swastika accompanied the racial epithets.

The fact that the incident was directed toward a certain individual may be disturbing, but Wasilak said it could help to assist in finding the person or persons responsible.

Wasilak said the incident may be related to an altercation before football practice on Thursday between a white and a black player.

He said one punch was thrown before the fight was broken up.

As a result of the hate message, Springdale canceled its junior varsity football game Monday night and is considering canceling its varsity game Friday night.

The stepfather of the victim said he thinks the graffiti may stem from the fight or an incident that

happened last Halloween. He said at that time a racial epithet was written on the family's sidewalk.

The Valley News Dispatch doesn't identify crime victims in most instances.

'The individual who's responsible for the graffiti has disgraced and embarrassed the school and hurt its reputation,' the superintendent said.

Wasilak said administrators met with students to discuss the incident, and are offering a $500 reward for anyone who has information that could lead to an arrest.

Police investigate

The investigation has been turned over to Springdale Police and Allegheny County detectives.

'At this point there are no suspects, but some leads,' Springdale Police Chief Joe Naviglia said.

If caught, those responsible will face charges of terroristic threats, ethnic intimidation, criminal mischief, institutional vandalism, disorderly conduct, and harassment by communication, he said.

The chief said there was some evidence found by detectives but he didn't want to disclose what was found.

'This has been the first time in Springdale I can recall something of this magnitude,' he said.

Naviglia was at the school Monday along with three other officers. 'We're here today to show a police presence,' he said.

The Allegheny Valley School District has a minority population of about 1 percent, and Wasilak said there have been very few racial incidents in the past.

'Our black students don't seem to have a problem; the majority of the white students are very accepting.'

The stepfather of the victim said he feels sorry for his two stepsons. He said they are going to the school to try to get an education just like anybody else.

'They're not trying to cause any problems or make any statements,'' he said.

'It's the dark side of people coming out and trying to draw you into into their world,' he said.

The stepfather said he hopes the district continues to treat the incident with the seriousness it deserves.

'We're hoping and praying that this is an isolated incident,' he said.

For the most part, he said Springdale has been a great place for his family, and neighbors and other school children have been very supportive.

Students appalled

Megan Marsh, 16, an 11th-grader at the school, said the incident upset her. 'I think it's pretty much disgusting. If somebody feels they need to do this then they're a sick person. It's embarrassing to the school.'

She said she's afraid more incidents could happen, and she said she's seen other instances of racism in school.

Ninth-graders Crystal Sasinoski and Samantha Shoop said when they first heard about the incident they were very afraid.

'We've had bomb threats, but nothing this bad,' Sasinoski said.

Shoop said there's not a lot of diversity in the school, but she was shocked by the graffiti.

'Minorities won't think they'll be able to come to this school because this is what they think they'll get,' Shoop said.

The two girls don't want people to think that's the case.

'Whoever did this shouldn't reflect on our school,' Sasinoski said. 'I think it's real mean.''

Jason Walker can be reached at jawalker@tribweb.com

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