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Students and staff at a Spanish-language immersion school in northern California arrived on Monday morning to find their campus marred with graffiti bearing anti-immigrant and pro-Trump messages.
A custodian arriving at the Cali Calmecac Language Academy in Windsor around 6 a.m. on Monday found the graffiti covering the walls, doors and even garbage can lids around the campus. One piece of graffiti bore the message “Build the wall higher” - a reference to GOP nominee Donald Trump’s call to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border – and the rest of the graffiti involved Trump’s name painted in numerous locations.
About 75 percent of the more than 1,100 students at the school, which is located about an hour and a half north of San Francisco, are Latino. The dual immersion school, which serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade, teaches in both Spanish and English.
“This is going straight to little kids. The janitor tried his best to get as much of it covered as he could in the morning, but the kids still saw it, and they’re really rattled by it,” Jeanne Acuna, the school’s principal, told the Press Democrat. “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.”
After the Windsor Unified School District dispatched a number of maintenance workers to help with the clean-up, the graffiti was either power-washed off or painted over by the early afternoon on Monday. But teachers at the school said that the students still saw and understood the meaning behind the graffiti.
“My kids noticed it before I did,” Liz Lockett, a bilingual community liaison for the school. “They know about Trump and the wall that he wants, so they knew exactly what it was about.”
Students’ parents also said that they will have to discuss the graffiti with their children and answer questions about why the vandalism occurred.
“I want to make sure she understands what’s going on. I’m sure I will talk to her about what happened at her school,” Melissa Leonard, a parent, told a local news station. “I’m angry. I’m sad.”
Windsor police did not say whether or not they had a suspect in the case because as of Monday afternoon they were still waiting to review security footage from the school.
Local Republican leaders moved quickly to distance themselves from the graffiti. They said the vandalism was not related Trump’s presidential 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,” said Sonoma County Republican Party chairwoman Edelweiss Geary. “I would certainly say no Republican was involved.”
Other area residents, however, said that Trump’s rhetoric has fueled these types of crimes and created a racially charged environment for Latinos.
“If it was just, ‘We hate Mexicans’ or ‘We hate Latinos’ or ‘We don’t want Spanish,’ that would be one thing,” said George Valenzuela, a Windsor school board trustee running for reelection this year. “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.”