Swastikas at Steamboat Springs High School prompt concern | SteamboatToday.com

Swastikas at Steamboat Springs High School prompt concern

Teresa Ristow

A group of Steamboat Springs High School students walk towards the school on the first day of class in 2012.

— Steamboat Springs High School officials remain concerned about a trio of swastikas that appeared around the campus prior to winter break.

Principal Kevin Taulman said Tuesday that the swastikas — one drawn in the snow on a hood of a car, one written on a locker and one etched in the hood of another car — appeared to target two Jewish students.

"I'm very concerned," Taulman said.

Though the school took the incidents seriously, Taulman said they were unable to identify any suspects for the acts.

The first swastika, drawn in the snow on the hood of a female student's car, happened while it was snowing, making security footage unhelpful, Taulman said.

"There wasn't good clarity on the video," he said.

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The same student saw a swastika drawn on a locker near her’s soon after, but the student whose locker it was actually couldn't remember on which day it appeared.

A third incident involved a male student who was lifting the hood of his car when he noticed a swastika etched into the hood.

Taulman said he remembers incidents of swastikas being drawn among other graffiti in school bathrooms in the past, these recent incidents seem more serious and could be considered a hate crime.

"Both these individuals are Jewish, so there seems to be an issue," Taulman said.

There hasn't been any new vandalism reported since students returned to class in January, but Taulman said the school is still interested in finding the student or students responsible for the three swastikas.

To promote tolerance, high school social studies and language arts teachers have been trained in "Facing History and Ourselves," a curriculum supplement that interjects discussions on bigotry and anti-Semitism into curriculum.

"It's really powerful," Taulman said.

He acknowledged that teachers could use another training in the program.

Steamboat Springs community member Paula Salky said the school may have missed an opportunity to use the incidents with the swastikas to talk to all students about tolerance.

"Too much emphasis is placed on who did this, instead of why this is happening," said Salky, who is Jewish. "There are so many teachable moments, especially in the high school years."

Salky encouraged the school and district to be proactive on issues of tolerance, getting all staff members on board and reaching out to parents when incidents do occur in case parents wish to discuss the issues with their children.

Taulman said he's met with student leaders, including those with the high school's Gay-Straight Alliance, who are working on establishing a week of events, possibly in late March, to promote inclusiveness among students.

Taulman said the school encourages reporting of acts of discrimination, including through the school's anonymous text-a-tip line.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow