Hateful graffiti found on plaques along baseball dugout

Etchings believed to be old discovered at Pascack Valley


Madison Gallo

The Smoke Signal broke the news last week that two swastikas were found inside of PV bathrooms. More instances of hate speech were found etched into plaques along the back of PV’s third base dugout.

Days after it was made public that five swastikas were found inside various bathrooms at PV, more hate speech was pointed out to administration Monday at Pascack Valley, this time behind the third base baseball dugout etched onto plaques commemorating former standout PV baseball players.

The plaques are marked with homophobic slurs, racial slurs, and drug references, among other vulgar language.

The Smoke Signal has photographic evidence but is choosing not to publish them due to their sensitive nature.

According to several students affiliated with the baseball team, these etchings have been there since before this school year. More than one senior baseball player believes to have seen these as far back as freshman year. Craig Sodano, a PV junior and member of the baseball team, added that these markings have been there since his freshman year.

The Smoke Signal brought this to the attention of PV Principal Tom DeMaio on Monday. A police report was filed.

DeMaio said he asked for all the plaques to be removed in the summer after he noticed there to be offensive language etched into them.

“This summer, I noticed some other things regarding people and stuff [on the plaques], so that’s why I asked for those plaques to be taken down,” DeMaio said. “I thought they were all taken down, to be honest with you.”

Only one plaque was removed.

Pascack Valley Regional High School District Superintendent Erik Gundersen did not know about the etchings on the plaques until Monday when he was made aware of the markings by The Smoke Signal. When he was told, he expressed surprise.

“Unfortunately, I don’t really have anything to say about these since this is the first time I am becoming aware of it,” Gundersen said. “It’s a reminder to all of us in the community that we can’t just allow these markings to be seen and nobody to report so we need to report these things and take them very seriously.”

Gundersen emphasized the importance of people reporting any symbols of hate that they see because “if we [administrators] don’t get a timely report, for example with the [etchings on the baseball dugout] and we have somebody saying they’ve seen it there for a while, it makes it very difficult from a video surveillance standpoint to narrow down who it could be.”

At a Board of Education meeting last Monday, Nov. 5, Gundersen addressed the rumors of there being anti-Semitic graffiti in the school after multiple Valley parents spoke about their concern. The following day, Gundersen announced that there were three additional swastikas throughout PV.

Many students, alumni, neighboring school administrators, and PV teachers expressed their opinions on  Twitter.

The Pascack Valley Clergy Counsel, a group of Pascack Valley faith leaders who are Jewish and non-Jewish, will be meeting with Gundersen on Tuesday, Nov. 13, to discuss what has been discovered, what is being done to investigate, and what will be done moving forward.

In addition to this, the Human Rights League, in conjunction with the student councils, will be meeting Thursday morning at 7:20 a.m. in the lecture hall to talk about the issues.  

“Students, and staff, and the community recognize that our school is not about this, we are better than this, and that we are going to combat all of these instances of hate because really PV is all about acceptance and doing what’s best for others,” Gundersen said. “And unfortunately, the actions of one — or perhaps a few students — is tarnishing the reputation of Pascack Valley High School and the rest of the student body and this community does not deserve that because we are an accepting, tolerant, and loving school community.”