Black Students at St. Paul’s Threatened by Hate Mail

A recent deluge of threatening hate mail directed at black students at St. Paul’s School has resulted in a temporary police presence on campus and an ongoing police investigation. The letters were mailed to all but several black students and displayed images of targets and the words “Bang! Bang!” along with a command to the students to leave the school. Several students came forward on Tuesday afternoon after receiving the letters in their P.O. Boxes earlier in the day, according to a letter to parents from Rector Bill Matthews. “It is an outrage, and while only some were threatened directly, we all have been wounded by this,” Matthews wrote in his letter. Security has been tightened on campus – St. Paul’s has increased its regular patrols, and a police officer will be on campus 24 hours a day until the end of Winter term. According to St. Paul’s website, about eight percent of its student body is black – representing about 40 students. According to St. Paul’s Communications Director Jana Brown, a report in The New York Times that said the targets were superimposed over an image of the recipient’s face was inaccurate. Student photographs were no longer available on the online directory as of Wednesday, though faculty photographs were still present. The school intercepted other letters before students were able to open them, though all targeted students were notified of the letters. According to the Times’ story, the letters were postmarked from Manchester, NH, a city about 20 minutes south of St. Paul’s Concord, NH campus. According to campus sources speaking on condition of anonymity, two targeted students have left the school since receiving the letters. All-school emails on Tuesday and Wednesday instructed St. Paul’s students, faculty and staff not to speak to the media, though several reports have since surfaced in major media outlets. Brown said that although they were hoping to aid the Concord police by instructing community members not to talk to the media, there would not be any disciplinary ramifications for students who spoke to the press. While an investigation continues under heightened campus security, the healing process for the St. Paul’s community is underway. The school held an emergency all-school meeting on Tuesday night, where students held hands in community prayer in the chapel. The school also held a dinner on Wednesday night to speak to all of the targeted students. All students met with their advisers to discuss the events. On Wednesday night, Matthews wrote to the parents that he had nothing further to disclose about the events. He did, however, provide a message about the school community. “This is a remarkable community. I remain enormously impressed with what our adults are doing for all students right now. They are calm, focused, supportive, loving—all that you would hope for in a trying time,” he wrote. This is not the first such trying time that Matthews has faced since becoming Rector in January 2006. He took over for Bishop Craig Anderson, who resigned under fire from the I.R.S. about his compensation packages. By May, Matthews was forced to close the school several weeks before the end of the academic year due to extensive flooding.