UPDATED: Alpena Public Schools apologizes after hate speech found on rock

News File Photo The large rock at the entrance of Alpena High School is seen in this May 2022 News archive photo.

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools officials apologized Tuesday for not releasing information sooner after racist words, homophobic statements, and antisemitic symbols were found to have been painted on the rock in front of Alpena High School.

Officials indicated in a press release they became aware of the hateful language on the rock on Saturday and enlisted student volunteers to paint over the hate speech to avoid exposing it to the public, according to a press release.

“Alpena Public Schools strives to create a kind and welcoming environment for all students, and we admit that there is more hard work to be done to attain that goal,” the district said in a press release. “In hindsight, we recognize that covering up the rock without acknowledging the racist and homophobic language and the antisemitic symbols was a failure to lead and causes additional harm to those who suffer through the evils of hate.”

Lee Fitzpatrick, director of communications for Alpena Public Schools, said the first instinct was to repaint the rock and cover up the language used. Administrators then had an ongoing discussion about what to do next.

“We spent too much time deciding what to do,” Fitzpatrick said Tuesday, acknowledging there are community members who deal with hateful rhetoric.

“I just think it’s unacceptable to treat other people that way,” he said.

The rock was donated to the school several years ago, and students have since used it as a kind of message board for current events and celebration.

“In the presence of racist, antisemitic, homophobic language and symbols, our organization remained silent,” the district said in the release. “We will be doing our part to name acts and words of hate. It’s not about guilt or about the past. It’s about today, and it’s about doing what is right. We need to work together to ensure that Alpena Public Schools is a safe and welcoming school environment for all students.”


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