Staff at a Spanish-language immersion school in Windsor found their campus marred early Monday by graffiti bearing the anti-immigrant message “Build the wall higher” and numerous references to Donald Trump.
Jeanne Acuna, principal of Cali Calmecac Language Academy, said a custodian arrived about 6 a.m. Monday morning and found graffiti on buildings, walls, doors, garbage can lids and elsewhere. Aside from the phrase about the wall, a reference to the Republican presidential nominee’s plans to prevent immigrants from coming to the country illegally, the rest of the graffiti involved Trump’s name painted in various spots, Acuna said.
About 75 percent of the more than 1,100 students at the dual immersion school, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade and teaches in both Spanish and English, are Latino, according to Acuna.
“This is going straight to little kids. The janitor tried his best to get as much of it covered as he can in the morning, but the kids still saw it, and they’re really rattled by it,” she said. “They feel violated. They feel threatened by it, because it could be something that violates their parents, or affects their family. It’s a really ugly feeling.”
The school was working with Windsor police and hoped to learn more about the incident from security camera footage. Classes went forward as planned.
The Windsor Unified School District sent a few other maintenance staff members to help Cali Calmecac clean the graffiti quickly, painting over walls and power-washing spots on the ground where Trump’s name had been written, Acuna said.
Windsor police could not yet say anything about the identity of any suspects early Monday afternoon because they were still waiting to review security footage from the school, said Sgt. Eddie Engram.
By mid-day Monday, the Cali Calmecac school grounds appeared to be generally graffiti-free, but Acuna could point to many recently-painted patches on walls where she said the graffiti had been found just hours earlier. Liz Lockett, a bilingual community liaison for the school who also has two children enrolled there, said she saw the graffiti when they arrived at about 7 a.m. for band class.
“My kids noticed it before I did,” Lockett said. “They know about Trump and the wall that he wants, so they knew exactly what it was about.”
While most of the graffiti simply invoked Trump’s name, staff, parents and students all said they felt it conveyed an offensive and even racist message, given the vandalism’s location at a Spanish language school and Trump’s inflammatory campaign rhetoric.
Fifth-grade teacher Christina Keller said she was shocked to learn about the graffiti from another instructor. She referred to the graffiti as a hate crime because of its context.
“I don’t think they were trying to get votes here,” Keller said of the vandals.
Students had similar opinions.
“It was disrespectful. This school has a lot of different people with different skin (colors),” said Dither Ochoa, 10. “It’s kind of offensive to say stuff like that.”
Another student, Raymond Schweid, 11, said the graffiti was hurtful because of the school’s large Latino student enrollment. He called Trump a “very racist man.”
Sonoma County Republican Party chairwoman Edelweiss Geary called the graffiti a “dirty little trick” and said it reinforced an incorrect narrative about the national campaign.
“I”m real sorry about that. That’s not a good message. It’s taxpayer money that gets wasted; it’s not good. Cali Calmecac has been there for many years,” Geary said. “I would certainly say no Republican was involved.”
But George Valenzuela, a Windsor school board trustee running for reelection this year, faulted Trump’s words for fueling the graffiti incident.
“If it was just, ‘We hate Mexicans’ or ‘We hate Latinos’ or ‘We don’t want Spanish,’ that would be one thing. But to write build the wall, build it higher, that’s a direct reference to his terms. And to have his name written on the buildings, that would also be a direct reference to Trump,” said Valenzuela, whose seventh-grade son attends Cali Calmecac. “I’m sure Trump didn’t send a supporter to do this work at the school. I’m sure his campaign doesn’t know anything about it. But whoever did the vandalism is somehow swayed by his words.”
Windsor police are encouraging anyone with information about the case to call 707-838-1234.
You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @thejdmorris.