Swastikas, slur drawn outside Forest Hills Central

Kent County Sheriff's Department investigating spray-painted hate messages

Forest Hills Central High School, slurs
Someone wrote "No gays" and a misspelled racial slur on the sidewalk outside of Forest Hills Central High School. (Courtesy photo - May 17, 2017)


ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are working to find out who was behind hate messages that were spray-painted outside Forest Hills Central High School.

The graffiti — swastikas, a racial slur and a homophobic message — was discovered Wednesday morning.

Parent Bart Sumner’s daughter is in the Gay Sexuality Alliance at Forest Hills Central, near Grand Rapids. He said that on Tuesday, the group painted a rainbow on a rock outside the school, near the football field.

“Overnight, less than 24 hours, someone showed up and painted it black and put all sorts of horrible racial epithets around it,” Sumner said.

The vandals drew a swastika on the rock and scattered hate messages on the road and sidewalk nearby. Someone also spray-painted the initials for Forest Hills Northern High School.

“This is a great community and there’s no room for this in this community,” Sumner said, “and by far this is a loving, accepting community and we need to shine a light on ugliness when it happens.”

Forest Hills Public Schools Superintendent Dan Behm said he is shocked by the behavior.

“Anyone that would come to a place where children gather and would put out any sort of exclusionary message, there’s absolutely no place for that in our schools or in our community,” he said.

Behm, who said he was alerted to the situation Wednesday afternoon, said the hate messages and vandalism go against the district’s guiding principles, which encourage inclusion, diversity and respect for everyone.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the situation.

Behm said the district is looking into whether students or someone else was responsible.

“We don’t want anything on our campuses where kids are coming which causes them to feel unwelcome,” Behm said.

He also said that if students are responsible, they could face severe punishment.

“They would certainly face penalties up to including expulsion from school,” Behm said.

Sumner said he feels like expulsion is the right way to handle the situation. But he added that wouldn’t solve the root of the problem of discrimination — he said education is the only way to do that.

“I think once they get out of their little bubble of their world and get out into the real world of college and universities, they’ll discover that they’re in a vast minority of thinking and that it’s not any way to live your life,” he said.

Wednesday night, some students gathered at the rock, which they had repainted with a rainbow in a heart and the words “You can’t break us!”

Behm said he was told the original rainbow was painted several weeks ago and the black paint was actually in support of the tennis program. He noted, however, that does not excuse the hate messages.