CRIME

Bonneville Elementary community spreads messages of love after hate crime vandalism

Dec 18, 2023, 5:54 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2023, 12:23 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The eastside Salt Lake City community banded together to spread messages of love after an elementary school was targeted, with police investigating it as a hate crime.

Salt Lake City police say a citizen discovered that Bonneville Elementary School was spray-painted with racist and hate-filled graffiti Sunday morning. Chief Mike Brown said they obtained school surveillance video showing the vandals targeting the building at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

“Let’s call it what it is. This is a hate crime,” Brown said.

In his mind, the vandalism meets Utah’s definition of a hate crime.

“You commit a crime, a criminal mischief with the intent to target different groups,” he said.

But Brown doesn’t know why an elementary school was targeted.

“That’s so concerning. I mean, so sad,” he said.

Police would not release the video, saying it might interfere with their investigation. They’re asking anyone with more door-cam footage to contact them.

“They targeted our African American community. They targeted our Jewish community. They targeted the disabled. They targeted the LGBTQ and the Asian community. So it was very disturbing,” said Bonneville Elementary Principal Karen Holman.

Turning the message around

Meanwhile, the eastside Salt Lake community is trying to turn the message of hate into a message of love.

“Our wonderful building here today. It is covered in love messages. Our students have been working hard to just spread acceptance and kindness to everybody,” Homan said.

As crews finished power washing the school Monday morning, chalk messages lined the entrance to the school. The messages said things like, “We love you,” “Stronger together,” and “You are important.”

Fifth-grade students hung a banner saying, “Love is powerful.”

A banner saying "Love is powerful", being displayed in the school's hallway.

A banner saying “Love is powerful” being displayed in the school’s hallway. (KSL TV)

Holman said the school’s parents were some of the first to band together on Sunday after they noticed the graffiti and were able to get to the school faster than district cleaning crews.

“They showed up with cleaning supplies before our district crew could show up wanting to get this erased… So our message is, thank you. Please keep teaching your students how to love and how to accept and to treat everybody with dignity,” Holman said.

Holman said stopping hate crimes needs to start from the top down.

“When you look at what’s being spread from national news to local news, from local politicians to big politicians to what’s happening just around in the world, it just needs to come from top down that we can have different differing views, but we have to work together, and we have to compromise, and we have to be accepting and treat everybody with dignity,” she said.

A banner outside of the school saying "Peace Love Joy."

A banner outside of the school saying “Peace Love Joy.” (KSL TV)

Brown said it requires action from all of us.

“We stand up to it. We report it. We support the victims. We make sure that we give them the resources that we have. But all of us together, we will come together as a community. And this is how we prevent it,” he said.

Brown added that he does believe there has been a recent rise in hate crimes in Salt Lake City.

“We’ve had pride flags stolen over the summer, and just a few weeks ago, we’ve had hate crimes at the Asian nail salon. We’ve now had the situation of at Bonneville Elementary. We need to talk about these things,” he said.

And his message: they will not be tolerated.

Utah’s Jewish community responds

The United Jewish Federation of Utah condemned the vandalism, saying it only makes some children feel like they don’t belong in their own community.

“Children who view these vicious scrawls may be confused by unfamiliar graffiti, but their parents and teachers, who must explain it, will not be,” the federation said in a written statement. “They will know that there are angry, misinformed people who believe threats that frighten children and intimidate teachers serve some useful purpose. They don’t.”

The federation hopes that teachers and parents will teach students to “appreciate, respect, and, when necessary, defend their classmates” against these types of targeted actions.

The group provided a couple of tips on how to speak to children about these issues:

  • Speak with your family about what these symbols and phrases signal and why they are unacceptable. Be a positive example.
  • When you hear something offensive, tell the person that those words only instill or reinforce prejudice. Hateful actions are often preceded by unchecked hateful speech.
  • Work with your employer to build norms of respect and inclusion.
  • If a neighbor or local institution has experienced a hate incident, reach out so they know they are not alone and unsupported. Minority communities are strengthened when others stand with them.
  • Most importantly if you hear, see, or experience a hate incident report it to the police. You can even report anonymously.

KSL 5 TV Live

Crime

Deathrow inmate Taberone Honie appeared before State Board of Pardons and Parole, asking them to sp...

Brian Carlson

Honie makes a final plea for mercy before execution date

Making a final plea for mercy Tuesday inside the Utah State Prison, death row inmate Taberone Honie appeared before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, his attorneys asking them to spare his life.

40 minutes ago

FILE: A Summit County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle. (KSL TV)...

Carlysle Price

Man assaulted wife and fled, located in Montana

A man police said assaulted his wife and fled Monday was located in Montana Tuesday morning.

3 hours ago

Death row inmate Taberon Honie listens during a commutation hearing before the Utah Board of Pardon...

Pat Reavy, KSL.com

‘Get this over’: Relatives of slain Utah woman want Taberon Honie to be executed

Four women, all related to Claudia Benn who was brutally murdered in 1998, testified Tuesday during Taberon Honie's commutation hearing that he should be put to death.

8 hours ago

A homeowner said he and a neighbor shot two pit bulls in self-defense Monday after the dogs cornere...

Andrew Adams

Ogden homeowner says he and a neighbor shot 2 pit bulls in self-defense

A homeowner said he and a neighbor shot two pit bulls in self-defense Monday after the dogs cornered, attacked and charged at them.

20 hours ago

FILE - This April 18, 2024, photo released by the Utah Department of Corrections shows death row in...

Colleen Slevin and Matthew Brown, Associated Press

A man on death row for a 1998 murder asks Utah’s parole board for mercy

Utah officials began hearing testimony Monday about whether a man facing execution next month should be spared the death penalty for murdering his girlfriend's mother and instead remain imprisoned for life.

1 day ago

A former San Juan County sheriff’s deputy has been arrested on suspicion of child sex abuse. (San...

Daniel Woodruff

Former Utah sheriff’s deputy arrested in child sex abuse case

A former San Juan County sheriff’s deputy has been arrested on suspicion of child sex abuse.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Bonneville Elementary community spreads messages of love after hate crime vandalism