SPS officials identify 2 Kickapoo students accused of writing racially-motivated hate speech & symbols in bathroom

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 6:48 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Officials with the Springfield Public School district say the SPS police department has identified two Kickapoo students who vandalized a bathroom at the school, posting what they termed “racially-motivated hate speech and symbols.”

“We were heartbroken honestly,” said SPS Chief Information Officer Stephen Hall of the district’s reaction to the vandalism. “It was incredibly disappointing and disheartening to see this type of conduct in one of our schools.”

The incident was revealed to the public on Tuesday when Kickapoo principal Dr. Bill Powers sent out this note to Kickapoo parents:

“Dear Kickapoo Staff & Families:

A restroom in our school was vandalized this week with racially-motivated hate speech and symbols. This incident is currently under investigation by police and we are thoroughly reviewing surveillance video to determine the individual(s) involved. Immediately after we were notified, the restroom was shut down and the vandalism was removed. I am reaching out to make you aware of this deeply troubling situation for several reasons.

First, I want to reiterate that there is zero-tolerance for hateful or threatening conduct. It is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Kickapoo High School or in Springfield Public Schools. Our first priority is to create a safe, welcoming learning environment for each and every student and this undermines that critically important work.

Secondly, I’m asking for your help in identifying those responsible. While we continue to review video and conduct follow-up interviews, please encourage your child to share any information they may have with a teacher, counselor, administrator, or through the anonymous Tip Line at 319-2901. School Police Dispatch may also be reached directly at 523-2911.

I am personally and professionally saddened and disappointed. In the coming days, we will be addressing this issue with our student body to remind them of our values and commitments to the safety and well-being of all. We will also ensure that support is provided to students who may be struggling in the aftermath of the situation.”

That plea for help paid off on Wednesday when Hall told KY3 that the investigation had yielded results.

“I am pleased to share with you that as a result of a thorough investigation, review of surveillance video, and interviews with students, we have been able to identify the individuals responsible for this act,” Hall said. “They will be disciplined according to our student handbook. The full range (of discipline) is yet to be determined as the investigation is open but certainly this will include out-of-school suspension. It will also include a review meeting with administrators that will follow the initial out-of-school suspension with the potential of extended suspension.”

The graffiti included anti-black and anti-Jewish references and Hall confirmed that the two white students are enrolled at Kickapoo. He would not confirm their gender or age.

This is not the first time that the south side school has experienced this type of incident.

In April 2019 a poster made by the school’s Gay Straight Trans Alliance was ripped from the wall overlooking the commons area during lunch in front of hundreds of students. A week later a student with a Confederate flag confronted a group of GSTA members.

A group calling itself “KHS Straight Pride” posted on social media, “We don’t support LGBT ideology being pushed on students” during that time period as well. Then in May 2019 a Kickapoo High School student posted a profanity-filled video using racial slurs against black students, threatening them if they came into the locker room.

Reacting to that incident Jerald Foote, a Black parent of a Kickapoo student, pointed out that the times hadn’t changed that much since the days he was a student.

“The same things that I dealt with back then is the same thing that’s going on today,” he said in a 2019 interview.

Interviewed on Wednesday, Springfield NAACP President Kai Sutton also expressed her concern about Kickapoo’s history of incidents.

“This is not the first time this has happened at that school so we’re definitely concerned about the culture there,” she said. “People are angry. People are hurt and looking for answers and we’re definitely looking for change. I’m going to meet with the principal in the morning and talk about this further.”

Hall pointed out that the Kickapoo faculty and students’ quick response to solving this latest racial incident was proof that the school is intent on curbing that type of behavior.

“I think it’s important to remember that when we look at these incidents it’s not reflective of a particular school,” he said. “It’s reflective of a societal issue that is ongoing. This is something that we have to understand exists in our society. That’s why as heartbroken and disappointed as we are, we’re going to use this as a learning opportunity to make sure that we emerge from this stronger and better.”

As to whether these types of racial-hatred incidents will ever go away?

“I have hope,” Sutton answered optimistically. “I know that with this community in Springfield there are a lot of people who care. They have a lot of passion, want to see change, and are working hard for it every day. So yes, I do.”

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