According to the release penned by superintendent Joseph Campisi, both incidents involved a racial slur as well as obscene drawings.
According to Campisi, both acts of vandalism were discovered in the back of the school around the playground area, with one involving the snack stand area and the other involving a racial slur carved into a piece of playground equipment.
The snack stand incident, according to Campisi, was discovered and reported the morning after Columbus Day, while the racial slur on playground equipment was discovered over the summer. Both incidents were addressed immediately, according to Campisi.
“The biggest concern in this incident is not just the vandalism and the destruction of property, but it’s the bias incident,” said Campisi. “We’ve started a comprehensive stakeholder group for the purpose of cultural proficiency and equity, because everyone should feel welcome and valued, and this type of bias incident is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The district has alerted the Berlin Police Department, as well as the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, in an effort to identify possible suspects. At the time of this article, the Berlin Police Department could not report any information into the investigation, other then that the department does have access to the cameras on the outside of the school in the days leading up the reported vandalism.
“The district has every intention of filing charges and having the offender(s) prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said the release.
The district is currently looking for any help the community is able to provide in the search for whoever committed these acts of vandalism. Along with the release sent out to parents was a link to an Anonymous Vandalism/Bias Incident Reporting Form that the district encourages the community to use in helping bring the offender(s) to justice.
“The form provides complete anonymity,” said the release. “In addition, the Board of Education is offering a monetary reward to those providing information that leads to the identification and arrest of the offender(s).”
After two known incidents of vandalism, Campisi says the district does not want to shut down its playgrounds or other areas after school hours, however any additional incidents would prompt potential action by the district.
“We’re in a position now that, because of the actions of a very small amount of people that did something illegal, we have to take actions that possibly include closing the playgrounds after school hours end for everyone,” said Campisi. “It’s a community school and we love being a part of the community… but we may be forced into taking such actions if things like this continue.”
Campisi also said the school is currently looking into adding additional cameras around the building with increased lighting fixtures that will both deter vandals during nighttime while also allowing for better identification at longer distances and fixing current blind spots around the school.
However, at the present time, Campisi says the school district is working closely with law enforcement to attempt to catch the offender(s) of the incidents.
“We’re going to pursue charges to the fullest extent of the law,” said Campisi. “I also want the community to know that this is not something that we take lightly. We don’t stand for this and we are looking to take action.”