MMSD investigating anti-Asian graffiti left on East High halls during Hmong New Year

MADISON, Wis. — Officials with the Madison Metropolitan School District say they are investigating after anti-Asian hate speech graffiti was found on hallways and stairwells at East High School on Tuesday as students celebrated the Hmong New Year.

In a letter to East High families, interim principal Mikki Smith says multiple students and staff found the graffiti during lunch Tuesday. School custodians worked to clean it off as quickly as they could after taking photos to document it.

The messages were also relayed to MMSD’s Office of School Safety, according to Smith.

The graffiti came as students in two Southeast Asian Language classes wore their traditional Hmong clothing throughout the day to celebrate the Hmong New Year.

“That a member of our community would do something so harmful, potentially in response to a cultural celebration, is very sad. It goes against everything we stand for at East,” Smith said in her letter to parents.

Smith said as of Tuesday night, they do not know who was responsible for the hateful messages and asked anyone with information to come forward.

“I want all of our students and staff to know you are valued members of the East community,” Smith said. “You belong here, you are loved, and you have the full support of myself and the entire administration team. Please reach out if you are hurting, if you need to talk, or if you need anything. We are here to listen, protect, and support you.”

Peng Her, the CEO of the Hmong Institute and a parent of an East High School student, said the school’s statement is not enough.

“By saying we value our students, it’s almost the same as saying, ‘Oh, our thoughts and prayers are with you’ after a school shooting, and so from the Hmong community and from as a parent, I really want to know what the school is going to do to make sure our school is safe,” he said.

East High School will hold specific discussions about hate speech, bias and bigotry on Monday, according to school officials. Her said more education is needed.

“Teach these individuals about who the Hmong are, why they’re here,” he said. “They came here as refugees. They had fought on the side of the United States during the Vietnam War. And also teach about a lot of the anti-Asian events in America.”

Wisconsin State Representative Francesca Hong of Madison also sent a message of support on Twitter Tuesday night.

“What happened today, the blatant show of anti Asian sentiment at East High School, is an absolute violation of trust. No individual should ever be subject to the harm of hateful words and racial violence,” Hong wrote.

“While being the first or only can be an honor, it is also at times deeply isolating and lonely. To have these feelings compounded with anti-Asian hate is despicable,” Hong continued. “We must be better in protecting, honoring and respecting one another.”

For an in-depth look at hate crimes in Wisconsin, visit News 3 Now Investigates’ State of Hate page.