Board of education addresses recent high school vandalism

Board members offer their perceptions of the events and propose solutions.

On Monday, Sept. 22, the Lawrence Public Schools’ Board of Education commented on the racially-inspired vandalism that occurred as a result of the rivalry between Lawrence Free State High School and Lawrence High School in recent weeks.

Board President Shannon Kimball brought the topic to the floor.

“I condemn these acts,” Kimball said.

She went on to note the shock she and others felt after learning of the initial crimes on the LHS football field. She said that the community needed to use this experience as a forceful lesson for improvement of the environment.

Superintendent Rick Doll echoed that sentiment and advocated district-wide courageous conversations. He stated that the issue will not be ignored or hidden away to save face, and he repeatedly emphasized his concern for students affected by the crimes.

“(I am) primarily concerned with our  students of color who feel marginalized,” Doll said.

Doll said that the incident would be an opportunity for improvement and closed by praising the reactions and handling of the incidents by the football coaches from both schools.

Board Member Bob Byers spoke next on the issue, stating firmly that the incident was not a matter of school spirit or high school antics.

“The incident had nothing to do with school pride,” Byers said. “Five young adults committed a hate crime.”

While he recognized that the sentiments expressed on the football field were not universally or generally accepted by the student of either school, he said that it is important to discover why the acts were conceived in the first place.

“It’s about why five young men would do something so disgusting in our community,” Byers said.

Byers approved of Dole’s plan for courageous conversations and found optimism about the community’s ability to thoughtfully move forward despite his concerns about the anguish caused to the town.

The members of the board did not specifically address the incident that involved the racial vandalism of a district bus, aimed at Free State, but instead condemned these actions in general.