VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Messages of hate were spray painted on walls at Skyview High School early Wednesday morning. The The Clark County Sheriff's Office is trying to track down a man who called the graffiti in at 1:30, to ask him about how he found the graffiti on campus at that time of day. The vandalism was removed by a custodian before students arrived, according to district spokesperson Pat Nuzzo.
Nuzzo said the hate messages were spray painted on two exterior walls at the school. The messages targeted subjects of race, religion and gender. The Clark County Sheriff's Office is investigating the vandalism.
Skyview administrators spent Wednesday reassuring students and families that the school is a safe, welcoming place. The school held an assembly and Principal James Gray sent a message to Skyview families through email and automated calls.
Students who spoke to KGW appreciated the school's response, but not the graffiti.
"We are one big school they’re handling it really calmly and it’s just one of those things that’s it’s just like, what the heck," said Chelsea Gardner.
"I think it’s really immature what they’re doing, the way they express themselves it’s really wrong," said Hunter Davenport.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said these type of incidents of hateful intimidation and harassment are spiking since the election of Donald Trump as President. The organization has collected more than 400 reports since the election through Monday, November 9th.
A Washington State University Vancouver sociology professor said President-elect Donald Trump's rhetoric paved the way for a spike in hate.
“There’s a certain amount of enabling going on here that I think people feel enabled by the comments he’s made and there’s a lot of sort of incipient racism in the is county that was waiting to come out,” said Clay Mosher, who specializes in criminology.
Text of Skyview Principal James Gray's message to families:
Skyview is a special place where we embrace our diversity and celebrate our successes regardless of political ideology, race, heritage, gender identity or family background.
This week we were the targets of hate speech on our outside walls. We have removed it and are in the process of repainting. While this deeply saddens us, we know that it does not define us. It is imperative that we, as a school, recommit to each member of the Skyview community our paramount duty to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students.
I wanted to take a moment to share, again, our covenants that represent our core values in action as an educational community: Trust- We commit to an environment in which all children are physically and emotionally safe to learn. Integrity- We commit to holding our students accountable for academic requirements and Skyview's policies. Commitment to Excellence- We commit to being reflective in our practice as a means to getting better every day.
While acknowledging that many people in our community- children and adults- are experiencing a broad range of emotions, we will serve them all by staying laser focused on these commitments.
I love this school and these kids. I will do everything in my power to protect them from harm and prepare them for a successful future.
James E Gray