Maryland Teens Slapped with Hate Crime Charge After Painting Racist, Anti-Black Graffiti Aimed at Principal

Maryland Students Charged
(From left) Tyler Curtiss, Matthew Lipp, Joshua Shaffer, and Seth Taylor were arrested Thursday morning after painting racist and anti-Semitic graffiti at school that morning. (Image courtesy of the Howard County Police Department)

Four students at Glenelg High School in Maryland have been charged with hate crimes after scrawling swastikas and other racist graffiti on school sidewalks, parking lot and other parts of the building last Thursday.

Graduating seniors Tyler Curtiss, Matthew Lipp, Joshua Shaffer and Seth Taylor were all arrested last week after police used footage from school surveillance cameras to identify the 18-year-old culprits, The Baltimore Sun reported. The four teens are facing multiple counts of “destruction of property based on race/color, religious belief, sexual orientation, or national origin” — a misdemeanor carrying up to three years in prison.

In addition to anti-Semitic imagery, the graffiti also contained racial epithets, many of them aimed at Glenelg High principal David Burton, who’s African-American. The vandalism also depicted homophobic slurs, male genitalia and other derogatory phrases, according to local station WBAL-TV.

“There was nothing left, basically, upturned — sidewalks, trash cans, bricks, our buildings, everything that could possibly be available — with spray paint and some very graphic poignant representations,” said Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano. “No group seemed to be spared.”

The offensive drawings were discovered by building services staff early Thursday morning, the superintendent said. Much of it was found at the back of the school, where the teens scrawled them during an end of year awards ceremony for graduating seniors.

A spokesman for Glenelg High said maintenance workers removed the markings later on that morning. Officials haven’t yet estimated the cost to clean up and repair the damage caused by the teens, however.

Since the incident, principal Burton has received an outpouring of support from students, faculty and the community. On Thursday, he held an assembly with students to address what had happened as was met with standing ovation, according to The Baltimore Sun.

“(Mr. Burton has) brought so many great changes to our school, and I can’t thank him enough, and it’s just so sad to see him attacked,” one student said.

“I was honestly very shocked because I did not understand that a group of kids could, in their own community, say words like that about someone that’s their superior at school,” said another.

While the incident is the first hate crime in a Howard County school this year, this is the second time in two years that Glenelg High has dealt with a racist incident. “Hate or Bias” reports from the Maryland State Police showed that eight swastikas and an anti-Black slur was found inside a bathroom there in March 2017.

“We will not tolerate this in Howard County,” Martirano said at a news conference last week. ” … We work hard every day to make sure our children are safe and protected. No child, no staff member, within our inclusive community should ever feel any form of threat or harassment or any form of hate.”

As for Curtiss, Lipp, Shaffer and Taylor, all four have been released on their own recognizance and are scheduled to appear in court on July 19, WBAL-TV reported.

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman, whose daughter is a teacher at Glenelg High, promised the county would act against the students’ hate crime “in the strongest terms possible.”

“We can’t let those who promote hate destroy our important year-end traditions and must remind ourselves that this type of intolerant behavior is the work of a small number of hateful individuals,” Kittleman said. “They don’t represent our shared beliefs as a community. They do not represent our shared values in Howard County. We will not tolerate it and will stand together in condemning this behavior.”

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