This should be a story I could have read twenty years ago…not current day! So much easy to love than hate. When Concord High School senior Spenser Beaupre walked to his car after school last Tuesday, he immediately noticed something was different. As the vehicle sat parked in the school’s senior lot, someone had keyed a homophobic slur into the dark green metal of the minivan’s door, just below the handle. “I wasn’t personally really upset by it,” said 18-year-old Beaupre, who is openly gay. “It’s kind of sad to see people are doing that as seniors in high school. I would feel really bad if that happened to someone else.” Concord police are investigating the incident as criminal mischief, according to police Lt. Tim O’Malley. While New Hampshire has no statutes specific to hate crimes, O’Malley said if someone is convicted for criminal mischief and a jury finds it was done with intent to harass or intimidate a person based on ethnicity, race or sexual orientation, that could result in a heightened penalty. Concord High School administration addressed the incident Friday as Principal Gene Connolly spoke to students about the need to continue the school’s reputation as an open and diverse institution. “The school’s taking it very seriously,” Concord High School Assistant Principal Kaileen Chilauskas said. “Mr. Connolly spoke during announcements about how we have a strong positive culture in the building. We want to make sure the kids are feeling safe, feeling respected and feeling included.” Chilauskas said after the incident was brought to the attention of administrators, they immediately contacted the school resource officer and Concord police. Beaupre said he has had issues in the past with another male student that started as an argument on Twitter and escalated into a physical altercation last year. But other than that, Beaupre said he’s felt safe and welcomed as a member of the Concord High student body. The keyed car incident has actually reiterated that, as other students and staff have reached out to Beaupre to show their support. “It’s definitely for the most part a really positive community,” Beaupre said. “I think this incident really highlighted that for me.” But he added he’s worried about the message the incident sends to other students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. “Most people know this – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people – the rate of committing suicide and self harm is greater than other teenage groups,” Beaupre said. “That’s not something to be taken lightly.” If a perpetrator is caught, Beaupre said he would just like to talk to the person about what happened. “I’d like to have a conversation with the person who did it,” he said. “It’s not a secret to anyone that I’m openly gay.” O’Malley said police don’t yet know if another student was responsible for the slur. “Given the victim attended the school, we wouldn’t rule that out, but we can’t say for sure,” O’Malley said. Chilauskas said other incidents of hateful speech and vandalism have happened in the past at school, but haven’t targeted a particular group. “We’re seeing across the board, this level of vandalism that makes kids and adults feel unsafe,” she said. The incident happened a few days before a student assembly focused on LGBTQ issues, so Chilauskas said she doesn’t think the assembly spurred it. “We do have a tradition here of being inclusive and respectful,” she said. Chilauskas said the school community is trying to discuss the incident and use it as a teaching moment for students. During Friday’s morning announcements, students urged their peers to “stay classy” and respect others. “The kids are pretty amazing and pretty smart,” Chilauskas said. “We’re going to give them an opportunity to make sure they have a voice and a positive voice.” Beaupre said he appreciates the school’s response, but added the incident shows more progress needs to be made. “I think that that’s a good thing and I think there’s work to be done,” he said. “For the most part, the community is very accepting.” (Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)
“It is a lot more difficult to march out of the closet than to march for peace. It can cost you your job and your career and your life.”
-gay activist alliance
We can all come out of the closet in just a few words!
How unique that the word following homosexuality in the dictionary…is hope!
Hope is a thing with featthers
That perches in the sand
And, sings the tune without words
And, never stops at all