Evidence of a hate crime at Palisades Charter High School this weekend was painted over by the time students arrived to campus Monday morning, but the community is more concerned than ever about safety and respect at the school, which prides itself on its diversity.
“We are not going back to class,” said Ajamn Lee-Johnson, a student at the school. “We are going to show our message through this sit-out.”
Hundreds of students arrived at school Monday morning, only to walk out of their classrooms.
“It starts with just words but it will lead to actions, and if we don’t do anything about it, people will just keep doing it,” said student Gina Sarni.
Racist and homophobic messages, which included swastikas and “KKK,” were spray-painted across the campus on the school’s sign and sidewalks at around 6 a.m. on Sunday, LAPD Officer Mike Lopez said.
Pictures of the vandalism circulated on social media on Sunday, but school authorities painted over the profanity by Monday morning, after a police investigation.
A year ago to the day, a racist rap came out at the public charter school, student leaders said. After that incident, students felt their school did not properly address the issue. This time, a group of students is drafting a proposal that would address racial tensions and make them feel safer at school.
“It was despicable hate speech that has certainly upset our community … and rightfully has our students feeling disrespected and eager to address what’s happened on their school grounds,” Pamela Magee, executive director of Palisades Charter High School, said.
Rod Aragon, whose son is a sophomore at Palisades, took action as soon as he encountered the hate speech graffiti on Sunday.
“There’s been some vandalism here within our school and a couple more racial slurs on the sidewalk,” Aragon said in a video he posted to Facebook. “This cannot be tolerated here within the Palisades, so I’m removing it now.”
Using spray paint, Aragon covered up the profanity and wrote his own message: “Love.”
Palisades Charter High School’s current student population of more than 2,900 is 53 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 15 percent black and 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, according to its website. Students represent over 100 ZIP codes across Los Angeles, Magee said.
Though the school isn’t under any threat, Magee said, the school is taking precautions by hiring an “abundance of staff” who will be patrolling the grounds Monday night through Tuesday.
“PCHS does not tolerate hate speech or related actions and is working closely with law enforcement to identify and apprehend those responsible,” Magee said in an email to parents Sunday evening.
Security footage captured the perpetrator, who was wearing a red hoodie and a white face mask.
Tips can be sent anonymously by calling PCHS’s tip line at (424) 653-4083 or by visiting the MySafeSchool website.
City News Service contributed to this report.