Racist and anti-semitic vandalism persists

BVH staff and students continue to encounter racist and anti-semitic vandalism on campus


Angelina Ruckman

A student walks into Bonita Vista High’s 700s boys restroom. The 700s restroom is where the Crusader first received a report of racist and anti-semitic vandalism in the stalls.

On Tuesday, Aug. 30 the Crusader received a report from Bonita Vista High (BVH) senior Brandon Giles of racist and anti-semitic vandalism in the 700’s boys restroom. A wall in a bathroom stall was tagged with anti-semitic symbols, symbols of white supremacy and racial and homophobic slurs. This report came just after Advanced Placement (AP) US History, Ethnic Studies and Black Student Union (BSU) advisor Don Dumas spoke out in a BVTV broadcast about educating students on the impacts of the use of the N-word and its history, while encouraging students to stop using the N-word altogether. 

“These actions are alarming and hurtful especially after Dumas’ speech with regard to the N-word which I would [assume] help lower these actions of students and force students to really think about what they are doing,” Giles said.

Considering that the BVTV broadcast was shown to all students at BVH, Giles is disappointed that he still encounters racist and anti-semetic vandalism. Giles shares how he strongly disagrees with the acts performed in the restrooms and is left feeling uneasy after the situation.

“To me, this vandalism illustrates an unsafe campus. It is a realization that there are people who go to BVH within the same proximity as me who have prejudiced beliefs towards minorities which I find  uncomfortable,” Giles said.

Administration has received reports about the graffiti in the 700’s boys restroom and has since cleaned up the restrooms. Speaking on behalf of BVH administration, Assistant Principal Esther Wise explains that she relies heavily on students speaking up and reporting the hate-crimes and illegal behavior they see.   

“We really rely on, ‘if a student sees something, let us know.’ If you’re aware that there’s somebody out there, doing graffiti [of] racist slurs on school property, please report it,” Wise said. “We do what we can with what we have but if students are not not reporting things, there’s not a lot that we can do.”

On the contrary, Giles shys away from reporting these acts to BVH administration and instead takes the media route. It is important to note that Giles is a former Crusader staff member, serving in the 2021-2022 school year.

“I find that if I report this to the administration, not much will be done, but reporting it to the school media, the school will have more of a liability to address this situation,” Giles said.

Wise explains that she does not see a lot of reports of illegal behavior on P3 tips and would like to see more. Even with these measures in place, Wise explains she has observed acts of racist vandalism and hate speech on school campuses before. This includes the anti-semetic and homophobic vandalism on BVH campus that the Crusader has previously reported on. 

In my experience as an administrator at [the Sweetwater Union High School] district, I have seen this happen way too many times. Whether it was once every three years, once every five years, once every two years–to me–that’s too many. I’d like to see it stop,” Wise said.

Senior Justin Bonilla has made a similar observation. Bonilla checked out a library book for his Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition class and in the margins were, “depictions of a clan member and a feminist as it [is] labeled on the book.” He believes that there has not been an increase in offensive graffiti, but instead is a common pattern. 

“I don’t think it’s been increasing. It’s been like this every year of high school I’ve ever been in. I think it’s just kids making dumb mistakes that they’ll regret later,” Bonilla said.

A survey conducted by the Crusader reflects the greater student body’s experience in the matter. The Crusader staff asked 88 respondents: How often do you encounter white power, anti-semitic or racist vandalism at BVH? 28.4% responded sometimes, 14.8% responded moderately and 3.4% responded often. 

In response to this, Wise explains that the Culture and Climate Committee began a campaign to reduce the use of the N-word on campus, starting with Dumas’ message to the school. She states that students have communicated positive results to her. 

“From [Dumas’ message to the school], I hope that students are noticing a reduced use of that word on campus,” Wise said. “I’ve gotten reports of students that tell me they have [noticed a reduced use of the N-word] and I wanna keep hearing, ‘I don’t hear that as much anymore Ms.Wise’ and build on that momentum.”

This isn’t going to break our spirit, it’s going to strengthen it”

— Assistant Principal Esther Wise

Ultimately, Wise understands that some students have anxiety about the ambiguous consequences of reporting an illegal act through P3 Tips or through messaging Wise personally. She reassures students by telling them they will feel better after doing the right thing, hoping that these incidents only help BVH improve. 

“We have to seek out ways to find who’s doing this and make sure that it stops. This isn’t going to break our spirit, it’s going to strengthen it,” Wise said. “The way I want to strengthen [our spirit] is by having better communication with our students about it, giving you that voice, giving you that opportunity to come in here and report those things that are happening and feel safe.”