North Fort Myers principal denounces ‘racist’ vandalism

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NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. – A principal has denounced the individuals who spray painted a racial slur and swastika found on a high school dugout Feb. 26.

“These are cowardly acts and this type of behavior is oppressive behavior that is blatantly racist,” said North Fort Myers High School Principal Matt Mederios. “It’s the work of bigots and it’s intolerable.”

Nearby neighbors said they may have heard the vandalism act in progress, but authorities are still searching for the people involved. Lee County School District has placed surveillance cameras on the baseball field in an effort to deter future vandals.

Mederios said the racial slur and swastika were discovered shortly before classes began.

“A student noticed that graffiti written on the dugout walking into school on Friday morning. Within six hours, the district installed security cameras on the field,” said.

The offensive language was immediately removed, but Mederios believes his baseball head coach, Tavaris Gary, was again the target of racism. Gary is the first black varsity baseball coach in Lee County, according to the News-Press.

“He doesn’t deserve this,” Mederios said. “It’s very unfortunate. Coach Gary, he’s very committed and dedicated to improving the lives of the students and his ball players.”

In March, the baseball team gained attention when a video showed former head coach Gary Bechtol smashing a wall that depicted a racist drawing labeled “Tavaris” while his wife, Shelly, is heard encouraging the incident.

Shelly Bechtol, a Lee County Sheriff’s office employee, was reinstated in September after being placed on administrative leave for her part in the March incident.

Lee County Sheriff called the Bechtol’s act a symbol of “hatred” and an “embarrassment,” according to the News-Press.

Nine months later, community members are speaking out against the recent act of vandalism.

“It just — it sickens. It sickens me,” said Shiela Smith, a former civil rights lawyer. “It’s reprehensible. There’s no place for any kind of racial slurs anywhere in our world.”

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