Two Racial Incidents in Four Weeks Prompts Police Investigation at Loomis

Officials are investigating the second racially motivated incident in less than a month at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut. On October 22, an African-American student found a racial epithet on the door to her room in Carter Hall, a girls’ dormitory composed of freshmen and sophomores with older prefects. This incident followed a previous racial incident that occurred on September 28 in Harman Hall, another girls’ dormitory. In the racial incident at Harman, an unknown culprit used a black magic marker to cross out the pictures of six African-American girls in a photograph of all the residents of the dorm. Loomis Chaffee’s Head of School Russell H. Weigel consulted with the Windsor Police Department after the first incident and began an internal investigation without police involvement. On Monday after the second occurrence, Weigel asked the police to start investigating both incidents. Weigel sent an email to all Loomis parents, students and faculty, alerting them after the incident. “We will not be complacent nor tolerate such behavior, which is an affront to all we stand for as a community. Rather, we are cooperating fully with the police investigation,” he wrote. “Loomis is a friendly, inclusive community, but we are not immune to troubling societal issues. We will continue to work to combat racism and ignorance and to reinforce mutual respect in our community and in the wider world.” Weigel was reluctant to comment further on the two incidents, saying that the ongoing investigation prohibits him from releasing any information that might jeopardize it. Loomis’s Director of Communications Louise D. Moran said, “It is still early in the process [of investigation], but discussions are going on in the school. The students and faculty are talking about the incidents, not just to be reactive but also proactive.” Loomis’s Student Council Committee and student members of PRISM, the school’s multicultural organization standing for “People Rising in Support of Multiculturalism,” convened in meetings to discuss possible directions to take following these racial incidents. Last Tuesday, the student council at Loomis hosted a meeting for the school’s leaders and continued to discuss ways to create a safer, happier and more accepting community. Co-President of PRISM Ismael Perez ’09 said, “My initial reaction to the second incident was disappointment. I was deeply upset because someone or a group of people was causing disturbances: confusion, sadness, anger and fear. My home was under attack and I felt that we as a school needed to do something to protect it.” He added, “ I also felt the need to speak to new students specifically because I wanted them to know that Loomis Chaffee is normally a place where many people feel safe, but that at the moment we as a school were going through hard times.” Following the incident, surveillance cameras were installed around Carter Hall, according to Ariel Kwok ’10, a Carter resident. She also said that Loomis deans interviewed Carter residents to gather information that might help the investigation. “I was kind of scared and angry. Loomis is supposed to be a multicultural school, but somebody is ruining it,” Kwok said. The day after the second incident, the girls in Carter Hall all wore black and white to show solidarity. The following day, PRISM asked the entire Loomis community to wear red as sign of support. These two racially-motivated incidents at the Loomis Chaffee School follow two incidents of targeted vandalism at Phillips Exeter Academy. At Exeter on September 19, a racial epithet was discovered on the door of an African-American girl’s dorm room. The following day, someone had engraved a harsh expletive onto the door of a white girl’s room. According to Dean of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) Linda Griffith, Phillips Academy has had no recent racial incidents of a similar nature during her tenure as dean. “At Andover, at the CAMD Office and through the PACE [Personal and Community Education] program, we try to bring up these issues of race earlier to be proactive rather than reactive…and to teach tolerance, understanding and sensitivity. Our goal is to really try to educate people early on,” Griffith said. Head of Af-Lat-Am Atima Lui ’08 said, “I think that these incidents are evidence that our world’s wider communities are still plagued by racism and prejudice. However, I think that the way that Loomis is handling the situation is exactly the way they should do it, by educating the community and allowing people to voice their opinions.”