When Joey Messina went outside his family’s house Wednesday morning, the boy saw something that made him scream, the 12-year-old’s mother said.
There was racially charged graffiti sprayed on the side of the Messinas’ house in Philadelphia, according to Fox29. Part of the message said, “die cracker.” Joey is white.
As detailed by NPR, the racialized term “cracker” has a long history that dates back to at least the 16th century.
Joe Messina, the boy’s father, told the TV station that he believes the graffiti came from bullies at Mastery Charter School, where his son is a seventh-grader.
He said the bullying has been a consistent problem that has started to weigh on his son.
“We’re trying to get him into another school, and he was an honor roll student, and his grades are starting to drop cause it’s consistent bullying,” he told Fox29.
Joey’s parents told CBS Philadelphia that Joey’s race spurred the threatening graffiti. They argued that staff members at Mastery Charter School have turned a blind eye to the harassment their son endured, including an alleged attack when six students started punching Joey’s back.
But school officials — who told CBS that Joey’s father “is no longer allowed on campus because of a pattern of behavior” — said they do not ignore accusations of bullying against any student.
The school said they determined the accusations of bullying to be “unfounded” after a police investigation, according to Fox29.
Margaux Messina, the boy’s mother, issued a call for parents of other students at the school.
“To all my Mastery mothers and fathers, if your kid is coming home telling you their being bullied and nothings being done about it please do something,” she wrote on Facebook. “Don’t let your kids continue to be a victim. Speak up!! We are all they have!!!”
In the meantime, Joey will not return to classes because he no longer feels safe, the family told Fox29. Law enforcement is investigating whether the graffiti constitutes a hate crime, police say, and a cleanup crew from the city removed the message.