Police investigate anti-Free State vandalism

Administrators evaluate causes for animosity

By Cortlynn Stark, Nikk McCollum, Zia Kelly, and

Police are investigating vandalism to a First Student school bus, which was tagged with a racial insult and other swear words directed at Free State High School.

The incident came a few days after a racial slur was sprayed with shaving cream on the Lawrence High School football field, leading up to last week’s rivalry football game.

“While we don’t know who is responsible for the damage to the bus, it’s especially disappointing that this happened after what we viewed as a unified response of disgust from the school district and both of our high schools last week to vandalism on one of our campuses,” said Superintendent Rick Doll, who spoke before Friday’s football game (See those comments here). “The district continues its equity work in our schools and will use both of these incidents as realistic examples to spur deeper discussion around the sensitive issues of race and racism.”

Pictures of the vandalized bus were posted on Twitter on Sunday by a Free State student. Blue paint was used to mark the bus. (You can see images on our Storify page.)

The bus transports district students but wasn’t parked at the First Student or district facilities. First Student sometimes park buses elsewhere and this one was left in the 4300 block of West Sixth Street during the weekend. First Student has filed a police report.

Police are investigating. Last week, with the help of school resource officers, they quickly identified the five Free State students who were responsible for the vandalism at Lawrence High.

“Obviously, the short team will be to deal with the kids who did it and like Free State was able to determine the kids who were the ones to come over here, we will determine who the kids are and if they are even kids who go here, and we deal with that and assign whatever consequence is appropriate,” assistant principal Mike Norris said.

He said the crimes have raised serious questions, and administrators will be discussing the issue the district’s equity team.

“I don’t know what the easy answer to this is,” Norris said. “It makes you wonder if it’s just a couple of kids being dumb or if it is a schematic of something bigger. Something that our community needs to deal with. I don’t know which it is. One of things we are doing is trying to figure that out.”