Bellingham elementary school has become the latest target for hate

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A Bellingham elementary school has become the latest target for hate.

Over the weekend, the playground area at Northern Heights Elementary was graffitied with racist and anti-Semitic words and swastikas.

Bellingham Police officers opened an investigation and worked to clean up the graffiti, believed to have been done with chalk or chalk paint.

“It’s very difficult in 2024 to even believe that we have to have these discussions,” says Lt. Claudia Murphy, with Bellingham Police. “It’s very difficult to see. It’s very difficult to know that people live with that hate inside of them and that they have to express it.”

She tells KIRO 7, the graffiti is one of at least four hate-related incidents in the city in recent weeks.

The graffiti comes less than a month after a 42-year-old man was charged with a hate crime in Bellingham.

The suspect, Paul Bittner, is accused of attacking an 11-year-old boy because of his race.

That incident was a shock to the community, as well as middle school students who witnessed the attack.

“They all learned what hate is in its ugliness that day. As a community, we should be doing better. We should be raising more awareness about how we teach each other what hate is,” says Shu-Ling Zhao, a co-founder of Whatcom County’s Racial Equity Commission. “It is frustrating and just an indicator of the healing and work that we need to do as a community.”

The concerning trend is happening throughout the state; not just in Bellingham.

The 2023 Crime Report from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs outlines a six percent rise in hate crimes from the year prior.

Lt. Murphy calls the growing trend unacceptable.

“We have to treat one another like human beings. And hate has no place,” says Lt. Murphy.

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