Oregon high school students shaken by homophobic vandalism

Homophobic slurs were found scribbled over a mural inside one of the school’s gender-neutral bathrooms last week. (KOIN)
Homophobic slurs were found scribbled over a mural inside one of the school’s gender-neutral bathrooms last week. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A sign reading “love wins” is displayed on the front doors of Grant High School in Northeast Portland. But some students tell KOIN 6 News they aren’t feeling that love because of hateful graffiti found on campus.

On Tuesday, school officials confirmed homophobic slurs were found scribbled over a mural inside one of the school’s gender-neutral bathrooms last week.

The school’s LGBTQ community has since spoken out in response to the vandalism, demanding change and saying that more needs to be done to keep them safe.

“For me and other queer students, this was viewed as a direct threat and challenged our basic notion of security at school,” student Callie Quinn-Ward said in an email.

Quinn-Ward said it isn’t uncommon for LGBTQ students to be targeted at school.

“Walking through the halls, you hear slurs and homophobic language all the time,” she said. “I think for a lot of people who aren’t queer it came as a complete shock because they’re not aware of how much this goes on on a daily basis.”

Finn Hawley-Blue, president of Grant High School’s Queer Straight Alliance, said the school could have handled the situation differently. He and others took their concerns to a Portland Public Schools board meeting on Tuesday night.

“I know students who didn’t come to school this week because of this,” Hawley-Blue said. “I was disappointed how this was handled by my administration.”

The high school senior said he feels like the school tried to cover up the incident. A thin layer of paint was used to cover the graffiti, but Hawley-Blue said the words can still be read. He called it a metaphor for the entire situation.

“It’s not just any piece of graffiti,” he said. “It’s a literal death threat.”

He and others like Quinn-Ward want school officials to fully address the situation, and show they understand the impact of the language used in the homophobic graffiti.

Grant High School Principal Carol Campbell released the following statement:

“Any time there is vandalism in our schools it is hurtful, especially when directed at a particular group of students.  We are investigating this internally and we are meeting with any students who may feel threatened by this and reassuring them that they are welcome at Grant.” – Principal Carol Campbell

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