DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago elementary school district has asked police for extra patrols after a swastika was found carved into a piece of playground equipment early Tuesday.
Superintendent Kevin Russell of Downers Grove Grade School District 58 sent parents a letter confirming a swastika was found on the playground at Lester Elementary School. He called the finding “deeply disturbing.”
“The swastika serves as the most notorious symbol of hate and antisemitism and has no place in our community,” Russell wrote.
He said the swastika was reported to Downers Grove Police and has since been removed.
“We have no evidence that this symbol was made by a Lester student,” Russell wrote. “Further, we do not believe that any Lester student saw the symbol. This likely occurred after school when the students had left for the evening.”
The discovery occurred amid a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crimes in Illinois following the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims and Jews have increased in Illinois since then.
“Hate has no home here in Illinois,” Pritzker said Monday. “It’s a phrase I’ve used time and time again, but hate always has an insidious way of trying to move in.”
Last week, a suburban Chicago man was charged with two hate crimes for allegedly verbally abusing and threatening to shoot two Muslim men, and an employee with the Illinois comptroller’s office was fired after she posted vulgar antisemitic comments on social media during an exchange about the war.
Days earlier, a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy in the heavily Palestinian Chicago suburb of Bridgeview was stabbed 26 times by his landlord in response to rising right-wing rhetoric on the war, authorities have said.