BURIN, Wash. – A Washington high school are holding “listening sessions” for students and parents after a “spirit rock” painted in gay pride colors on campus was painted over with the American flag and the word “Trump.”
The spirit rock at Highline High School – a large boulder on the school’s front lawn – is painted every year by students as part of a tradition that dates back decades, KIRO reports.
Last week, it displayed rainbow colors with the message “Love Wins” and “Pride” until some students painted over it with the pro-Trump message on June 7. An image of the new design was also posted to Snapchat with the caption “Fixed it,” and the issue quickly spiraled into a big controversy, the B-Town Blog reports.
“I was a little mad,” senior Julia Bartolome told Q13 Fox. “I guess you could say that.”
“I was very surprised that something like this would actually happen at my school,” freshman Mya Santos told the news site.
“I want everything to be over,” she said. “Summer’s almost here.”
The incident reportedly sparked frictions between the different factions of students, and some parents of students involved with the pro-Trump message told KIRO they’ve received death threats.
Principal Vicki Fisher wrote in an email to parents that “at no point have frustrations escalated to confrontations or violence.”
On Monday, school officials held an assembly to solicit input from students about the situation, then tasked them with developing ideas to resolve the tensions on campus through group discussion facilitated by teachers and administrators, the B-Town Blog reports.
On Thursday, the school is hosting a community meeting in the school library to discuss the matter further.
Jon Moormeier, whose son helped repaint the rock with the Trump message, told KIRO the students also painted it in school colors “to put the pride back in the rock.
“The school pride and pride for the country,” he said.
For his effort, Moormeier’s son was banned from participating in the school’s graduation ceremony on Monday.
Another female student who posted a tweet about the incident that read “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” was also suspended, the girl’s mother said.
The parents told the news site they’re frustrated that the students who painted the gay pride message were not similarly disciplined.
KIRO did find at least one student who was sent home from school for disrupting an assembly on Thursday.
Jahmara Coleman said he spoke out about the rock painting because of allegedly ongoing intimidation against minority and gay students at the school.
“This has been going on all year long,” Coleman said.
And while the King County Sheriff’s Office will not pursue a criminal investigation, school officials have now banned students from carrying on the rock painting tradition as administrators work to push more “acceptance” for gays.
“I think we are open to whatever solutions are out there,” Highline School District spokeswoman Catherine Carbone Rogers told Fox Q13. “We know that it’s going to involve training for staff around how to sensitively guide students through issues of freedom of speech and acceptance and tolerance of embracing people who have different opinions.”