Lesson from beyond Withrow’s Classrooms

by ROB HINTON 71, Tower News, Spring 2017

As another school year comes to an end, students and teachers often reflect on the year that has passed. For Withrow Tigers, both present and former, this is particularly true because one of the most important lessons learned this year took place outside of the classroom.

By now, most of you have read or heard about the horrific graffiti that defaced Withrow in January, shortly after the swearing-in of the new ad-ministration in the nation’s capital. Large black images of swastikas, racial and homophobic slurs and profanity were spray-painted about the campus. The incident occurred on a weekend. The school district wasted little time in getting the graffiti removed in time for the start of the following school week. News of the vandalism and hate crime, however, travelled quickly..angering many. It not only proved outrageous and disturbing to those of us who love our alma mater but also to the entire community (and elsewhere across the nation).

As unsettling as this awful experience was, it also proved to be a very teachable moment. Prior to the start of school (on that Monday), hundreds of community members, religious and political leaders gathered outside the front of the school, carrying signs of support and appreciation, to welcome students. The majority of Withrow students are black but many of those who gathered to greet arriving students were white. It was a beautiful, heartwarming sight and a clear message that the community…no, Cincinnati.. .was not going to tolerate such hate at a time in our history where divisiveness seems to have become the norm.

The expressions of support didn’t end with the start of school on that Monday. On Tuesday, Withrow played a varsity basketball game against its rival, Walnut Hills, at Cincinnati State. Fans of Walnut Hills wore black and orange to express their support for the Tigers. That was just the beginning because there was more expressions of solidarity and love to come in the days and weeks ahead.

Throughout the tunnel and hallways of Withrow, walls were adorned with signs and posters from many supportive folks. Some of them read “hand in hand for peace” and featured handprints of young children from schools outside of CPS. The entire visual was a bit overwhelming but also inspirational.

There were also messages and monetary gifts from people without any ties to Withrow. One person sent a donation and a message “.. .intended as a gesture of support for your school in the wake of the deplorable racially motivated vandalism…”

A couple sent a card with a note that read “It brings (us) joy everyday traveling to work to see the shining, lovely faces of children gathering for school at Withrow. Please know we stand with you…”

Lastly, a rabbi, who lives near the school, also donated to the school and wrote “… as a child of Holocaust survivors, the attack on your community was an attack on me and my family.”

The person who committed this heinous act on Withrow is still at large. Cincinnati Police do have surveillance video of him and continue to look for him.

Though this hateful incident angered me and countless others, it was clear from the outcries from the community as well as their overwhelming and generous support, that no matter what differences we all might have… as Cincinnatians and as Americans, we have each other’s back. Hate, of any kind, will not be tolerated particularly when it’s targeted at our young people.

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