The Palo Alto High School administration is investigating racist and pro-Donald Trump graffiti messages discovered on campus this morning.
Perpetrators scrawled “Black Lives Suck” and “Trump 1237” with black marker in at least three locations on campus, including the boys’ bathroom door in the 800 building and the benches directly in front of the custodial offices.
“Trump 1237” coincides with the number of delegates needed to capture the Republican nomination for the national presidential election, and “Black Lives Suck” is a perversion of the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” which became a rallying cry for civil rights activists following several police brutality incidents.
Paly is the latest addition to the growing number of high schools and colleges across the nation that have been defaced with similar hateful, Trump-related messages.
The custodial staff discovered the majority of the graffiti this morning at 8:20 a.m., and the vandalism was concealed shortly afterward, according to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson.
“We take pictures and get rid of it as soon as possible,” Berkson said. “Unless we have a lead, we are limited in action. We clean it up right away, so the person responsible doesn’t get the attention they want.”
According to Berkson, the Palo Alto Police Department has been contacted to aid in the investigation.
In an email to The Paly Voice, Supt. Max McGee stated that he encourages students to stand against bigotry.
“Hate speech is a serious matter, and those who defaced our campus will suffer serious consequences,” McGee said. “We are immediately removing the graffiti, but more importantly, I trust that our Paly students will not tolerate any expression of racial, ethnic or gender disparagement and will take positive steps to assure that our campus is kind, safe and welcoming for every individual.”
Campus Supervisor Carl Hubenthal said he felt upset after seeing the messages.
“I don’t think this kind of hate has any place on this campus,” Hubenthal said. “This should be an inclusive space for everybody, and I think whoever did that needs to come forward and have some sensitivity training. The person who did it clearly doesn’t understand the hate that they’re projecting and what damage they can do.”
The graffiti appeared just as Paly began its first annual Change In Our Schools Week, intended to celebrate student diversity and promote respect. Junior Cezanne Lane, an organizer of CIOS Week and Associated Student Body spirit commissioner, was also taken aback by the hateful comments.
“This is really shocking for a community that I thought was so progressive,” Lane said. “Hopefully the person who did it didn’t mean it, but those words are harmful.”
Senior Dami Bolarinwa said he is disappointed by the graffiti. According to Bolarinwa, the Black Lives Matter movement carries an important message that people need to hear.
“That’s truly heartbreaking to see that people have reverted to such disgrace of integrity,” Bolarinwa said. “Black lives and many minority lives are targeted, so it saddens me to know students at Paly feel that way and are continuing to target students on campus with vandalism as this.”
Senior Sergio Valente said he believes the messages do not represent the values of the Paly student body.
“When I saw the graffiti I assumed that the people who created it were just doing so as a joke and thought it was funny,” Valente said. “I think there are many better ways to express juvenile fun and it’s sad that they chose to do so in a way that can be offensive. I also don’t think that it is something that needs to be blown out of proportion as it was the actions of presumably a few individuals and need not reflect on the school as a whole.”
Junior Maya Lathi said she thinks that people have the right to express political opinions, but personal beliefs should be shared in ways other than graffiti.
“With regards to the ‘Black Lives Suck’ graffiti, I think it is sad to see that this is a view a fellow student has, but it shouldn’t be considered representative of our tolerant student body,” Lathi said. “In regards to the ‘Trump 1237’ graffiti, while I disagree with the politics of Donald Trump, I respect each citizen’s right to believe in whatever politics they’d like to. There are more respectful, less destructive, ways to express one’s opinion than vandalism.”
Senior Reuben Kramer said he hopes people learn to value respect and tolerance.
“I think that it’s embarrassing that someone would do a hate crime, especially on campus,” Kramer said. “I would encourage people to stand up to racism whenever they see it, because it has no place in this world.”
Trump is scheduled to appear at the California Republican Party convention on Friday, April 29, in Burlingame. A protest to his speech is being organized through Facebook, encouraging people to “show him [Trump] a real Bay Area welcome by peacefully protesting outside.” Several Paly students marked that they are planning to attend the protest. The Trump campaign, when contacted by The Paly Voice, indicated it would respond to news of the graffiti but had not done so as of 9:45 p.m. Monday night.
Comparable graffiti has defaced other schools outside of Palo Alto, including Loyola Marymount University, Emory University, Northwestern University, Ohio University and Pacific Palisades Charter High School.
Additional reporting and writing by Emily Hwang.
Editor’s Note: For a few minutes, an extension on one of our editors’ browser changed all mentions of “Trump” to “Drumpf.” We apologize for this brief departure from correct spelling.