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Racist Vandalism Left On Kirkwood Schools On Day U.S. Capitol Was Stormed

Kirkwood High School's welcome sign, seen on Jan. 7, 2021.
Ryan Delaney
St. louis Public Radio
Racist language was spray-painted Wednesday on the side of Kirkwood High School. Similar messages were written on the side of North Kirkwood and Nipher middle school.

Updated at 4 p.m.

Vandals spray-painted racist messages on the outside of Kirkwood High School and both middle schools Wednesday, according to district administrators, the latest in a string of racial incidents in recent years in St. Louis County school districts.

A Kirkwood student reported the graffiti at the high school to building staff Wednesday evening. Some students resumed school this week on a hybrid schedule following winter break.

The N-word was spray-painted three times on the side of the school along with the name of a former school administrator who recently resigned and the word “rape,” according to video of the graffiti shared in a parents Facebook group. Michael Wade, who is white, resigned last month as assistant principal of the high school for health reasons, a district spokeswoman said.

“Kirkwood High School staff, the District administration, and the Board of Education strongly condemn hate and vandalism acts,” high school Principal Michael Havener said in an email to staff and parents Wednesday evening.

Havener also planned to discuss the incident with students Thursday morning “to reinforce that this is not how we conduct ourselves as Pioneers.”

The incident was reported to Kirkwood police, Havener said in the email. A police department spokesperson confirmed an active investigation but did not provide details.

Later Wednesday night, district maintenance staff found “similar vandalism” at North Kirkwood and Nipher middle schools, emails to school parents said.

“I was just aghast, I was disgusted,” said Kim Linhares, a Kirkwood parent with two children at the high school and one in middle school.

“It can’t be completely pieced apart from the other giant things that were happening in our country yesterday,” she added. “It made me feel ill.”

The defacing of the schools came at the end of a day that put many Americans on edge as they watched a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters storm and damage the U.S. Capitol while President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was being certified by Congress.

“There’s been a lot of racial unrest in our school district, and it keeps bubbling up. I don’t know how it couldn’t be related to (what happened at the Capitol) yesterday,” said Sarah Pitt Kaplan, a parent of elementary and middle school students in Kirkwood.

There have been several acts of racism involving schools in St. Louis County in recent years, Kirkwood included. In October 2016, a white Kirkwood High School student used charcoal from a chemistry lab to give himself blackface, sparking community outrage.

A month later, Ladue High School students held two days of walkouts over racist incidents at their school. White students were accused of saying Black students should go to the back of the bus.

A Eureka High School student posted to social media in February 2020 an image that shows her and another girl wearing blackface and using the N-word. A school administrator said that the incident was unfortunate and that the student was disciplined.

The graffiti left on the Kirkwood schools Wednesday was removed by maintenance staff before students arrived for classes Thursday.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.