Graffiti triggers extra police at Sequim schools

Threatening messages appear just before first day of classes

SEQUIM — Sequim police are investigating graffiti at Helen Haller Elementary School and Sequim Middle School that included swastikas and a reference to a school shooting.

The graffiti had been painted over at both schools by Tuesday in time for today’s first day of the 2022-2023 school year in the Sequim School District.

Sequim Superintendent Regan Nickels said in an email to parents/guardians of students at the schools that the threatening messages were found on two exterior walls at Helen Haller Elementary and on three windows at Sequim Middle School on Sunday.

“Communications immediately began regarding facts of the discovery and evaluation of the messages between school administration, central office leadership and local law enforcement,” Nickel said in a Tuesday afternoon email.

“In a summary meeting today and after review of evidence collected thus far, it has been decided that school will reopen tomorrow (Wednesday) across the district with an increased law enforcement presence at and around all of our campuses out of an abundance of caution.”

Sequim Deputy Chief Mike Hill said that “people should notice more officer presence and patrols, and potentially [officers] being out at campuses at strategic times and locations.”

One message at Helen Haller, written underneath a broken window, read “be ready” next to a swastika; a second larger swastika appeared to have been painted and then painted over.

A message on another wall at the school read “Sandy hook 2” — in an apparent reference to the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Hill said Tuesday afternoon that there was similar messaging at the nearby Sequim Middle School campus.

“It looks related; [it’s the] same color [of] paints,” Hill said. “By all indications it’s related.”

Hill said Tuesday that no arrests had been made and that officers had been on the scene off and on as they investigate the vandalism.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, law enforcement officials were reviewing footage from cameras in the area.

About 470 students are expected to attend classes at Helen Haller Elementary this school year, in kindergarten through fifth-grade classes.

The district expects about 535 students to attend Sequim Middle School in 2022-2023.

“All threats to our school or students are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly,” Nickels said in the email. “We want you to have the facts so you can purposefully discuss them with your child and emphasize the seriousness of this issue.

“The theme of ‘If you see something, Say something’ is critical here. If you discover anything that can assist in the continued investigation, please contact us at school or the Superintendent’s office immediately.”

Hill said the graffiti is a crime.

“Even if it wasn’t some obvious evidence [of a hate crime], there are still other crimes associated with [the graffiti],” Hill said.

Those with concerns or questions are encouraged to call the Sequim School District central office at 360-582-3260 or email Nickels at rnickels@sequimschools.org, the superintendent said.

Anonymous information also can be submitted through the superintendent’s office or Sequim Police Department at 360-683-7227, Nickels said.

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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