A Portland police officer was dispatched to Sellwood Middle School Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution” after school leaders found a pair of threatening messages in a girls’ bathroom.
In a note to parents, Principal Jeandre Carbone said one of the bathroom scrawls, discovered Monday, indicated the writer “wanted to shoot up the school.” In a follow-up, Carbone also said that school officials found a swastika and the words “Heil Hitler” written on the wall of a boys’ bathroom.
Administrators notified the district and city police of the threatening messages in the girls’ restroom. Portland Police Bureau spokesman Lt. Brad Yakots told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the agency determined the threat was non-credible but still provided an officer to the school.
Custodians removed the graffiti in both restrooms, Carbone wrote to parents, and school officials are investigating the incidents.
“Student safety and inclusion are foundational priorities at Sellwood,” she wrote. “Hate speech is never tolerated.”
The administration’s response stands in contrast to how racist incidents that roiled other district schools were handled over the last year.
In May, the Black Student Union at Wilson High staged a walkout as leaders of the student group demanded administrators should be more transparent in addressing such happenings. The protest was sparked by what students say was a lack of communication when a series of fights broke out after video of a female student shouting a racial slur at a group of black boys began to circulate on Snapchat.
Around that time, administrators at Cleveland High in Southeast Portland reported finding a noose hanging in a hallway one morning. That incident came months after a custodian discovered swastikas and anti-Semitic language scribbled on posters for the Jewish Student Union.
Some staffers alleged Principal Ayesha Freeman, now fired, mishandled the schoolwide response to those incidents.
Freeman has said her decision to move to Wilson predated those incidents.
District spokeswoman Karen Werstein said Portland Public Schools employs a multi-step response to incidents of hate speech, which include denouncing the act, investigating, providing information to the community and promoting healing.
“It was very important to Principal Carbone to get information to her community very quickly and she did want to be direct and share the specifics,” Werstein said.