5 students to be charged in Akron school swastika incident

Photo of the door (Source: Viewer)
Photo of the door (Source: Viewer)

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Racist comments and a swastika were put on a door of a locker room at Akron's Ellet High School Wednesday, and now nearly a half-dozen students are facing charges.

The message and symbol left in tape was on a locker in the men's basketball team's locker room. Ellet played a game Wednesday night, but it was away against Warren G. Harding High School.

School officials say five students will be charged by Akron police. They each face misdemeanor charges in addition to disciplinary action by the school board.

Video surveillance assisted in the investigation, according to police.

Assistant Coach Monta Smith says his son found the messages and snapped the photos and sent them to him. School administrators took the messages down but there are still many questions.

The district says there's zero tolerance for hate.

"We have an incredibly diverse group of students and that kind of message, that kind of behavior has no place in Akron schools," said Mark Williamson, communications coordinator with Akron Public Schools.

"It really caught me off guard that somebody has the ignorance to do something like that. You never really expect something like that. It kind of baffles me that someone has the ignorance to do something like that," said student Gavin Gunn.

Smith says he struggled because he didn't want to distract his players but felt he had to be a role model and stand tall. He says this is bigger than basketball.

"They didn't just attack the black players, they attacked the whole team and this is something we'll use as motivation. But don't let the actions of some of the lesser, ignorant people deter you from going forward and being successful. We'll get through this," he said.

Akron Public Schools released this statement:

"Clearly, this is reprehensible and unacceptable behavior. Akron Public Schools is investigating it and will discipline those responsible."  Mark Williamson, director marketing communications APS."

Soon after, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan released a statement regarding the incident:

"Last night's incident at Ellet High School, which included a racially-charged message and image of a swastika being taped on the door of the Ellet boys basketball team's locker room, is disturbing, offensive and unacceptable. There is no room in our City for intimidation, hatred, or bigotry of any kind. The Akron Police Department will fully investigate this incident as a suspected act of ethnic intimidation and cooperate with the Akron Public Schools to identify the responsible party or parties, and take appropriate enforcement action. It is essential that all our young people feel welcome, valued and safe in this city and in their school environment. Our diversity is our strength; and acts like this, intended to divide us or incite fear, will never be tolerated in Akron."

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