Sym­bol sent to cell­phones dur­ing assem­bly


An image of a swastika was elec­tron­i­cally sent to stu­dents at­tend­ing an assem­bly at Oak Park and River For­est High School Fri­day — days af­ter racist and anti-Semitic graf­fiti was found in and around the school and as the school has re­ceived na­tional at­ten­tion af­ter the re­lease of a doc­u­men­tary about the ra­cial achieve­ment gap at the school.

The image was sent to stu­dents us­ing the AirDrop func­tion on an iPhone or other Ap­ple de­vice while they were in the school’s au­di­to­rium for a “Tra­di­tion of Ex­cel­lence” assem­bly hon­or­ing ac­com­plished alumni, ac­cord­ing to an email Karin Sul­li­van, a spokes­woman at the high school, sent to par­ents and stu­dents.

Sul­li­van wrote that the image was sent by some­one in the au­di­to­rium.

“Ad­min­is­tra­tion and se­cu­rity are aware and are in full in­ves­ti­ga­tion mode,” Sul­li­van wrote.

Sopho­more Bran­don Stiffic, 16, said 1,000 stu­dents or more were at the morn­ing assem­bly. He wasn’t sure how many stu­dents got the image be­cause many who got it im­me­di­ately took screen­shots and for­warded it to oth­ers or posted it on so­cial me­dia.

“I was at the assem­bly and re­ceived the AirDrop but didn’t ac­cept it be­cause I didn’t want that stuff on my phone,” said Stiffic, who is African-Amer­i­can.

AirDrop al­lows files to be shared in­stantly be­tween Ap­ple de­vices in close prox­im­ity via Wi-Fi or Blue­tooth. Since a pre­view image is dis­played with a prompt ask­ing each user to ac­cept or deny a file, the swastika image could have ap­peared im­me­di­ately on the screens of iPhones in the au­di­to­rium that were con­nected to the shared net­work.

Ap­ple doesn’t main­tain records of AirDrop trans­fers, and the sender can eas­ily change the name as­so­ci­ated with the image. In this case, a screen­shot of the image iden­ti­fied the sender as “Rouse” — an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the prin­ci­pal at the school, Nathaniel Rouse, who is African-Amer­i­can.

Ju­ve­nile iden­ti­fied

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, the vil­lage of Oak Park posted a state­ment say­ing po­lice — with the help of the FBI and the school — had iden­ti­fied “a ju­ve­nile as a per­son of in­ter­est in con­nec­tion with the elec­tronic dis­tri­bu­tion of an anti-Semitic image to some Oak Park and River For­est High School stu­dents.”

The state­ment said the un­named per­son “may be re­spon­si­ble” for shar­ing the image via AirDrop.

“Po­lice ex­pect to in­ter­view the ju­ve­nile to­day and work with the Cook County state’s at­tor­ney to de­ter­mine if charges are war­ranted,” the state­ment said.

The state­ment did not say whether the per­son be­ing ques­tioned was be­lieved to have been in­volved in the other in­ci­dents.

What’s more, shar­ing the image led to a sec­ond in­ci­dent, the vil­lage said, “when a stu­dent re­port­edly told a par­ent two stu­dents were talk­ing about shoot­ing up the school, prompt­ing the par­ent to con­tact po­lice. The re­port turned out to be a mis­un­der­stand­ing.”

School of­fi­cials sent a note to par­ents Fri­day af­ter­noon say­ing the in­ci­dent was re­solved — but shared no de­tails.

“We have worked closely with the po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate to­day’s in­ci­dent, and we be­lieve we have brought this par­tic­u­lar mat­ter to clo­sure,” Sul­li­van said in the note. “Due to pri­vacy laws, we can­not be more spe­cific than this. In this and all other in­ves­ti­ga­tions, we can­not iden­tify per­sons re­spon­si­ble, nor can we share any dis­ci­plinary con­se­quences that re­sult.”

School and po­lice of­fi­cials could not be reached for com­ment. Nei­ther the FBI nor the state’s at­tor­ney were avail­able.

Se­ries of in­ci­dents

The swastika sent Fri­day is the lat­est in a se­ries of racially charged in­ci­dents at the school, where po­lice have been pa­trolling.

Last week, some­one tar­geted An­thony Clark, an African-Amer­i­can spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher, in a racist mes­sage writ­ten on the school’s cam­pus. The phrases “F--- danc­ing n----- An­thony Clark” and “white power” were ac­com­pa­nied by two crudely drawn swastikas.

Three days ago, on Tues­day, more big­oted graf­fiti was dis­cov­ered at the school. Along with an­other swastika, some­one wrote “All n------ need to die,” “white power,” “Death to blacks and mus­lims” and “GAS the Jews.”

Par­ents said stu­dents at the school are wor­ried as the in­ci­dents con­tinue — and are even keep­ing their kids out of class.

“It’s get­ting scarier for the stu­dents and my own daugh­ter,” said Shelly Jami­son, whose 17-year-old daugh­ter at­tends the school.

“She is re­ally ner­vous to go to school be­cause of what might hap­pen,” she added. “My daugh­ter is strug­gling with this and hav­ing a re­ally dif­fi­cult time . . . . This will end up af­fect­ing their ed­u­ca­tion.”

She doesn’t be­lieve the in­ci­dents “rep­re­sent the thoughts of the stu­dents and fac­ulty at all, but it’s un­nerv­ing that they are so brazen.”

Stiffic, the stu­dent, be­lieves it is some­one who is “trolling” — but nev­er­the­less he left early Fri­day.

Teacher calls for unity

Mean­while, Clark has or­ga­nized a march for 3 p.m. Sun­day that will kick off from the main en­trance of the school.

“I am call­ing for all re­li­gious lead­ers, all com­mu­nity mem­bers, all al­lies, to come to­gether in sup­port of Black, Jewish, and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties this Sun­day, to stand firm against hate,” he said.

The high school has been the sub­ject of a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about race fol­low­ing the re­lease of a 10-part doc­u­men­tary about race re­la­tions and the ra­cial achieve­ment gap at the school.

An image of a swastika was elec­tron­i­cally sent on Fri­day to stu­dents at Oak Park and River For­est High School. PRO­VIDED SCREENGRAB

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