Police investigating vandalism in Portsmouth, NH after graduation controversy

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (WHDH) - Police are investigating an act of vandalism in Portsmouth after a woman said she was targeted for protesting a change to graduation gowns at Portsmouth High School.

This year, students will all be wearing the same color.

The vandalism appears to be connected to the upcoming graduation.

Jimmy Dowd, who is set to graduate high school in June, woke up to find spray painted messages of hate on his front steps.

“This is ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would do this over cap and gowns for high school.

The controversy comes after a recent change at the school during graduation when, instead of boys wearing maroon gowns and girls wearing white gowns, all students will wear the same color.

Beth Ricci, Jimmy’s mother, said she was told the change was made to accommodate one transgender student, a decision she believes does not make sense.

“So it’s got nothing to do with transgenderism, it’s got everything to do with changing everything for one kid,” she said.

Police are not calling the vandalism a hate crime, but they are investigating.

“People are drawing a connection between the comments that were made regarding the high school and the cap and gown for graduation, at this time we do not have any evidence or indication that the two are connected ,”  Officer Mike Maloney said.

Students said the cap and gown controversy has become an unfortunate distraction to the final days of their high school experience.

Ricci said she is going to take her concerns to the school board next week.

7News reached out to the superintendent on Friday, but has not heard back.

Police are still investigating and are appealing to the public for information.

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