Swastikas found at two schools in Folsom

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An elementary school in Folsom was vandalized with anti-Semitic, racist and anti-Christian graffiti, according to the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, marking the second time a Folsom school was marred with anti-Semitic symbols this school year.

Vulgar messages scrawled across the Sandra J. Gallardo Elementary School campus were spotted on Oct. 25, according to Daniel Thigpen, spokesman for the school district. Officials believe the vandalism, which included swastikas, lewd drawings and language and epithets attacking Jews, Christians and blacks, had been created in the middle of the night.

“This was alarming and very concerning,” Thigpen said. “The principal and custodian were there all day [Sunday, Oct. 25], searching for graffiti and covering it up before” the start of the school week.

The incident was being investigated as a hate crime, according to a press release from the Anti-Defamation League, which issued a subsequent release offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

“The perpetrators of this offensive vandalism should be held responsible for shamelessly spreading messages of hate at an elementary school,” wrote Seth Brysk, S.F.-based director of the ADL’s Central Pacific region. “We hope the reward offer will aid the [police] investigation.”

In a previous incident, 50-pound metal poles used as sidewalk safety barriers were pulled out of their holes and laid out in the shape of a swastika on a lawn at Folsom High School over Labor Day weekend. Police removed the poles before school began Sept. 8.

This has not been a quiet school year in the Folsom Cordova district. Three weeks before the Oct. 25 incident, the district sent a flier promoting “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” which included a verse from the Christian Bible, to 20,000 parents on behalf of an evangelical Protestant organization, Focus on the Family. There was some public outcry, and the district followed up by promoting, via an email to parents, an atheism event in Sacramento.

As of Nov. 2, there had been no new developments in the Folsom High School investigation, and police are still searching for leads in the elementary school vandalism, Thigpen said. “The unfortunate reality is, in cases like these, it can be extremely difficult to find evidence,” he added.

Rabbi Yossi Grossbaum, director of Chabad of Folsom, said this week that he is “not concerned about a pattern” of anti-Semitism in the city 20 miles east of Sacramento. “In all our time in the local community, we’ve had only positive experiences and I sure hope that [these events are] an exception.” — drew himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.