BURIEN, Wash. — An enormous rock gifted to Highline High School nearly 20 years ago will be removed in the coming days after a spate of hate-fueled graffiti.
Dr. Susan Enfield, the Superintendent of Highline Public Schools, in a letter to high school students said “hateful, offensive messages” started appearing on “spirit rock” nearly two years ago. District staff said the large rock on the school campus has been tagged with hate speech graffiti twice in the last week.
“After speaking with your principals and our school board members, we together have made the decision to remove spirit rock next week because as leaders and members of this community, we believe we owe it to you to take action,” the letter said. “While the rock may hold good memories for some, it is not the positive symbol it once was.”
On the Highline campus today, members of the school newspaper staff gathered near the rock.
“The spirit rock, since I was a freshman here, has always been up. It’s been spray-painted in gold and just shown a lot of school spirit,” said Raymond Mercado, a senior.
But twice in the last week, when Mercado and other students arrived at school, the rock had a fresh coat of paint on it.
Mercado said the paint covered “hate speeches, very big hate symbols.”
Tremain Holloway, one of the Co-Principals at Highline High School, said no one knows who is responsible for the graffiti.
“There’s a lot of speculation about it might be somebody outside of our school, because it’s not what we stand for and it’s definitely not what our students stand for,” Holloway said.
Hate speech and hate-fueled expression has recently been on the mind of many local families, teachers and administrators. Last week, Mercer Island High School condemned the actions of two students photographed giving the Nazi salute. In February, racist graffiti was spray-painted in Sammamish.
Evaya McAffee-Coe, a junior at Highline High School, said the graffiti gives students at the school a bad name.
“We’re all impacted by what happens here because it is in the heart of our town,” McAfee-Coe added.
The hulking rock was a gift from the class of 2002, according to the district. Over the years slogans cheering on sports teams were scrawled on it, it was painted with school spirit messages and spray painted with well-wishes for graduating classes.
But over time the rock has become less and less important to the school, said Holloway.
“This has become a place of hatred, malicious things, to be honest with you,” Holloway said. “The rock needs to be removed.”
Holloway said the rock will be gone by the end of next week, but a lesson to students and the community will continue.
“It’s about educating folks and it’s also about making sure this place is a place to feel welcome to be here,” Holloway said. “We definitely need to be educating, we definitely need to talk about these things, we need to have these courageous conversations.”