Editorial: Warren High students have courage to fight hate with love

If the authors of the racist graffiti found at Warren Township High School's two diverse campuses in Gurnee meant to upset students, staff, parents and the community, their mission was accomplished.

The words "White's Only" - written in black marker with a grammatically incorrect apostrophe - scrawled on four bathroom stall doors certainly stirred up emotions.

It resulted in 150 to 200 students gathered in a hallway near the Almond Road campus library to discuss diversity and respect with school officials and was followed by an outdoor protest. Police are investigating.

It was hurtful, shocking and insensitive and it got a lot of attention.

But what may have surprised the provocateurs was what happened a few days later after the raw emotions subsided.

About 10 students wrote kind messages on sticky notes and posted them on all 2,500 lockers in the Almond Road campus for juniors and seniors. The messages, which greeted students when they arrived for classes, were an effort to counter the racism.

"You Are A Treasure," "Shine Your Light," "Believe in Yourself," and "You Can Change the World!" were among the sentiments.

Most of the notes remained on the lockers the next day.

Students had fought back against hate with love.

For a school with a history of academic, extracurricular and athletic success, this may be one of its finest moments.

"A lot of students were appreciative and seemed like they were moved by it," said Amanda Middleton, one of several students who spent upward of three hours to hand-write the inspirational messages.

Of Warren's 4,267 students, about 46 percent are white, 29 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian, and 10 percent black, according to the most recent state statistics.

It's unclear what motivated someone to write the hateful message that sparked all the trouble at Warren.

Some think it was an outgrowth of the harsh rhetoric from the bruising presidential election that included attacks on Hispanics, Muslims, women and others.

It seems to be part of the country's mood of late. Various media reports and the Southern Poverty Law Center show many instances of hate crimes in the form of vandalism, threats and intimidation across the country in the wake of the Nov. 8 election.

We hope that isn't the case. We hope more people choose unity over division and positive over negative, and emulate Warren Township High School and how it responded when challenged by hate and racism.

Administrators took time to listen and students stepped up to prevent toxicity from infecting their school.

That's called courage.

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