English teacher’s home, car vandalized after hanging ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner


Sonya Shpilyuk

The note that English teacher Sonya Shpilyuk received in response to her Black Lives Matter banner.

Sarah Elbeshbishi

On January 7, English teacher Sonya Shpilyuk’s home was vandalized and an anti-Semitic note was left on her windshield, after hanging a Black Lives Matter flag from her balcony.

Shpilyuk and her husband, Mikey Franklin, woke up to to find their building covered with eggs and toilet paper. A handwritten note was left on the couple’s car with some targeted and violent terms. “I woke up [to a] hateful note with various anti-Semitic symbols,” Shpilyuk said.

Within the note, the yellow star of David and the word “Jude,” the German word for Jew, were included, indicating that whoever left the note knew of the couples’ Jewish background. Shpilyuk and Franklin reported the incident to the Rockville Police Department, which is considering it a potential hate crime.

“[Shpilyuk] is a proponent for equality for everybody, and she’s very vocal about that and so is her husband,”  English resource teacher Wendy Farmer said. “I was very outraged because how dare somebody…assault another person for wanting everybody to be protected the same way under our constitution?”

According to wallethub.com, three of the top five most diverse cities in the country are in Montgomery County, while two out of those three are in the top five for most racially and ethnically diverse. Though they are the most diverse in the county, according to wtop.com, hate-motivated hate crimes have increased “17 percent from the past year.”

“Growing up, I grew up some place that was not very diverse at all…and I’ve experienced things like this often, but never in Montgomery County,” Farmer added. “I moved [to Montgomery County] deliberately because of the diversity and it makes it worse when it’s someplace where you don’t expect this kind of behavior.”

Shpilyuk has had similar experiences to this back in the Soviet Union, which her family fled as religious refugees. “I fled as a religious refugee, so that things like this didn’t happen,” Shpilyuk added. “It happened because people are…emboldened to be angry, to say things that they believe that are unsubstantiated.”

“I think it’s hard for some people to see beyond their own biases and…hatreds to the deeper meaning of symbols and…of words,” Shpilyuk said. “I think that they just react very quickly and just sadly react in a hateful manner.”

Since the incident, Shpilyuk has receive a great amount of support from neighbors, friends and community members. “An anonymous person left a very lovely note on our car saying that they support us…and another unnamed person drew beautiful graffiti outside our house saying really positive things,” Shpilyuk added.

There has also been an increase in Black Lives Matter banners and signs being put up in their neighborhood. Shpilyuk’s “favorite…is a piece of printer paper, on which maybe a seven year old drew a Black Lives Matter sign in colorful crayons.”      



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