Mills addresses racist vandalism found in bathroom

Principal Kevin Mills addressed obscene graffiti on campus in a video on Oct. 27.

The statement was broadcast to all students and an email was sent out to families. It came in response to at least two separate instances of racist language: a slur written on a toilet and a note left in the West Linn United club’s suggestion box which claimed African-American students brought down school test scores.

Vandalism is filed as criminal mischief, according to Jeff Halverson, student resource officer.

After the slur was reported to Halverson, he photographed it to be filed in the West Linn Police Department’s online database.

Halverson said he will work with school administration to identify the culprit.

“Realistically,” Mills said, “99 percent of the time we find out who’s doing this based off of a peer who is willing to not enable that activity anymore.”

Mills encourages students with information to speak to a counselor, a teacher or an administration member. He hopes this video message inspires students to give feedback and start conversations about issues of race.
In addition to administrative efforts, Mills also notes the staff equity team and student-led groups are responding.

The equity team, formed last year, is a representative group of teachers, administrators, staff and counselors. According to Mills, they “have agreed to spearhead and lead ongoing professional development conversations with our larger staff to ensure our students feel safe and to create a united community.”

Mills also pointed to West Linn United, a student-led club advised by Dan Julian, Alex Close and Jackie Hamm, English teachers. United meets on Fridays in A104 to “promote student equity within the school community and serve as a task force to tackle issues of division and break down barriers between students.” United brought the graffiti to the attention of administrators.

The graffiti represents a “very isolated incident” to Halverson.

“In my heart, I don’t think this person believes that,” Halverson said. “I think they’re just trying to stir things up.”

Mills and Halverson expressed hope that this incident would be a learning opportunity for the entire community.

“It’s the beginning of important work we’re going to do here,” Mills said.