A Northwest Side elementary school for children with special needs was targeted by vandals who covered the building in offensive graffiti and slurs for people with disabilities, police said.
The vandalized buildings and walls were discovered early Sunday at Beard Elementary in the Norwood Park neighborhood.
Authorities say anti-Semitic messages, gang symbols and even the words "queer nation" were scrawled on several walls of the building. One of the words written near the entrance was a slur for people with disabilities.
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Alderman John Arena said the graffiti was "hateful" and "racist."
“We've never seen – in the time that I’ve been here for 20 years – this kind of hateful, racist symbolism,” Arena said.
He and his staff, along with Chicago Public Schools workers, worked late into the night to make sure the graffiti was removed by the time students arrived for summer school.
"They weren't going to walk in to that kind of welcome on a Monday morning," Arena said.
Chicago police say nearby garages and cars were also targeted. Arena says the vandalism ran the gamut, from immature phrases to gang symbols.
“Whoever did this is troubled,” Ald. Arena continued. “The hope is we get to this person and offer them help they need.”
Parents whose children attend the school said they were shocked to hear of what happened.
“It’s really disheartening,” said Vanessa Ramos, who has both a son and daughter with autism who attend the school. “It's heartbreaking. When we see our kids, we see them for what they are. To us they're perfect and it's a shame that people see them and they're labeling them ... It just shows no compassion.”
Neighbors in the area expressed both shock and disgust.
“It’s pitiful,” one neighbor told NBC Chicago. “To this school come on? Come on!”
Chicago Public Schools has referred all questioning to the Chicago Police Department, who says its Hate Crime Unit is helping in the investigation.
Detectives have canvassed the neighborhood and are also looking to see if security footage caught any of the vandalism on camera.