Wayzata High School

Wayzata High School, 4955 Peony Lane N., in Plymouth.

PLYMOUTH — Days after racist graffiti was found on Wayzata High School, the school had an extended first block so students could share their feelings about the incident both in writing and out loud, according to an email sent to students and parents.

The graffiti was found on the high school on Wednesday, Oct. 30, according to an email sent the same day to parents from Principal Scott Gengler.

“I was disheartened and deeply disappointed to learn that our positive start was tainted by racial graffiti found on the side of the high school this morning,” Gengler wrote.

The school and the Plymouth Police Department opened an investigation into the graffiti. Tammy Ward, administrative manager for the Plymouth Police Department, confirmed on Thursday, Oct. 31, the graffiti had been removed from the school.

“We work hard to promote a culture of kindness, belonging and mutual respect and there is no place for actions like this in our school,” Gengler’s email said.

In response to the incident, the high school extended its first block, also called MyTime, on Monday, Nov. 3.

“Our purpose today was to give you voice and to learn from you how we can continue to provide student voice in creating a school culture where student experience is valued, appreciated and better understood so all students can be successful,” Gengler wrote in an email to students and parents on Nov. 3. “My highest priority is creating an environment where all kids feel like they belong at Wayzata High School.”

GRAFFITI

The initial email did not detail the nature of the graffiti found on Wayzata High School, and Gengler told Lakeshore Weekly News on Nov. 1 that “because this is an active investigation that may involve students, we can’t share the exact content of the message other than it was offensive and intolerable."

Photos of the apparent graffiti have circulated on social media and are the subject of a Change.org petition (https://tinyurl.com/y53beq4m) that launched Oct. 30. 

Gengler also sent an email to students and parents on Nov. 1, saying a photo of graffiti had been modified into a different racist message and circulated on social media.

“This fabricated photo would give the appearance that it was graffiti on the same school wall from two days ago. I want to emphasize that this image was fabricated and distributed on a social media post and was not in the form of actual graffiti on the building.”

It's unclear if the photo included in the Change.org petition is the modified photo Gengler referenced in his email.

RESPONSE

The Change.org petition, which is directed toward school administration, says it is from a group of Wayzata High School students who witnessed graffiti on the school as well as more places around Plymouth, Maple Grove and Wayzata that were also tagged.

The petition requests that the administration make it mandatory for teachers to have “productive conversations” with students about race and how it is engraved into campus life; the administration “repeatedly” reach out to students when issues like this happen; and make sure incidents like this aren’t “apologized for in the future but prevented so we don’t have to feel targeted in a place where everyone is supposed to be accepted for who they are.”

Gengler told the paper the administration is aware of the petition and "will continue to work closely with students and our school community to reinforce that behavior like this will absolutely not be tolerated and ensure that all students feel safe and supported at school."

Statistics from the Minnesota Department of Education's website show for the 2019-20 school year, 46% of Wayzata High School students are nonwhite. These statistics are based on Oct. 1 enrollment numbers.

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.

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