School will go on at Kent-Meridian High School despite graffiti in the girl’s bathroom that read: “All Muslims dead on October 30th.”
The graffiti included “#MAGA,” which stands for Make America Great Again.
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According to Chris Loftis, spokesperson for the Kent School District, this isn’t the first time the district has dealt with threats against Muslims.
“Kentlake High School at the end of last year, some anti-Muslim language was delivered to a staff member from an internal source that we weren’t able to identify. And, earlier this school year, one of our assistant principles, who is Muslim, received hateful email from out-of-state.”
The latest “tags” discovered by a school staff member have the community rattled.
Immediately after the incident was reported, Loftis says school officials and police began an investigation.
“We had an internal investigation. And we brought in the local law enforcement and they did an investigation. They looked at all sorts of video resources both on school and in the community. So, we have to go through the process to make sure we’ve done all that we can do, to get as much factual information that we can have before we reach out to the community.”
The school district sent out a letter on Oct. 27 notifying parents the death threats and anti-Muslim slurs, and assuring parents that the school’s safety officers had reported the threats to Kent Police and that there was an investigation underway.
“Currently, there are no specific threats directed at individual students, however, we will implement extensive security measures on October 30 to help us maintain a safe campus. Our students and staff will notice an increase in security presence by Kent School District safety officers and Kent Police.”
Despite the quick action taken by the school and police, some families are feeling uneasy, particularly because students had already shared photos of the message on social media.
According to Jasmin Samy, civil rights director for the Washington State Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, at least one family reached out to her regarding the incident.
“A family called us and said our child is at this school and this is what’s happening since October 24th. And their issue was the school hadn’t notified them. They didn’t know anything, and it was all over … everyone knew about it because kids were already posting the pictures on social media.”
Samy said that the slow response from the school district had caused ripples of concern throughout the Muslim community.
“I’ve heard from a few parents not only in the Kent School District — because you know Federal Way is close and others. They’re like, ‘So what’s happening? Is this going to other schools?’ The thing is you know social media … it was posted by a member of the Kent community on Facebook so many people heard of it and they started asking questions.”
CAIR’s national office has reported an unprecedented increase in hate incidents targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump.
Loftis says he understands that the community is concerned.
“I understand when people feel that from their perspective it didn’t happen fast enough or it didn’t happen in the way they would do it. But I think we have to ask people to trust us. That we have more information than they have often and we also have wider swaths of responsibilities that we have to navigate.”
He went on to say, “Our public schools are not immune from the challenges of society, they are a reflection of it … There’s that balance. At what point does too much security go from safety to suppression? At what point does communication go from being responsive to being reactionary? And we have to find that balance.”
Loftis said he’s confident that kids will be safe at school.
“Just like we have every day. But we’re going to make sure that we have the extra resources there in case something does happen. And, we’re going to make sure we have the extra resources to dissuade anyone from doing anything.”
As for many of the Muslim students and their families, Samy says, “They painted over the walls, but they are scared.”
CAIR has been in touch with the Kent School District and the impacted community members. There are plans to meet with school officials to ensure a full and appropriate response to the incident. The civil rights organization will take that opportunity to discuss how the school should approach such issues moving forward to ensure Muslim students and parents feel safe at school.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.