Grover Beach police are searching for the vandal or vandals who spray-painted racist graffiti along the outside walls of a local elementary school.
Employees at Grover Beach Elementary School made the discovery July 6 of a drawn stick-figure hanging from a noose, with the letters H-I-M underneath it and a racist slur adjacent.
“It’s a despicable act,” said Grover Beach Mayor Jeff Lee. “It’s unnecessary and it’s unwarranted and we are not going to tolerate that in the city of Grover Beach.”
Lee said while he doesn't know if this is a targeted hate crime, if the culprit turns out to be a child or a group of teenagers, there’s still a big problem that needs to be addressed.
“It doesn’t make it any less disturbing,” Lee said. “What it does do, it provides an opportunity to learn and to teach and to outreach.”
An employee at the school posted photos of the vandalism to Facebook, which have now been shared a few hundred times. The staffer said he presently can not comment on the pending investigation, but as a black man living in the community, he expressed his disappointment.
Cornel Morton, president and board chair of the Diversity Coalition of San Luis Obispo, said cases like this are happening far too often across the nation.
“We African American folks who live in this county pay attention to what happened..in Grover Beach,” Morton said. “For many of us, unfortunately, it’s not surprising. It’s not, ‘oh my god, I’ve been a victim of racism,’ it’s more ‘here we go again.’”
Morton says the Coalition is working on a series of community forums to encourage a conversation of the racial tensions facing the nation and the Central Coast.
“We don’t get anywhere by denying the obvious, and we don’t get anywhere by blaming people,” Morton said. “We only learn through a relationship one on one.”
Lee said he’s also working with the Coalition—as well as local Black Lives Movement leaders and the local chapter of the NAACP—to use the graffiti found at the Grover Beach school as a teaching moment.
“We need to learn, we need to change, we need to understand,” Lee said. “I think it needed to happen before this, [but] we need to use this situation to make sure that we never forget and so that we don’t have a recurrence of this.”
Meanwhile, Grover Beach police say if the vandalism is determined to be a hate crime, they will arrest the suspect or suspects on felony charges.