Police investigating vandalism at El Carmelo Elementary School as a hate crime

On Jan. 24 at 4:18 p.m., an El Carmelo administrator contacted the Palo Alto Police to report that a sign was vandalized sometime over the weekend with a racial epithet directed against Black children. Another sign was vandalized by crossing out cartoon images of students of color.

El Carmelo Elementary School has one of the most diverse student bodies among the 12 elementary schools in Palo Alto. Nearly three-fourths of the children who attend El Carmelo are students of color.

Acting Police Captain James Reifschneider said PAPD does not know why the El Carmelo location was targeted specifically.

“We don’t have any information as to why the suspect or suspects committed at El Carmelo specifically, versus another location in town.” Reifschneider said.

The PAPD has no suspects as of Jan. 31.

Yolanda Conaway, Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Student Affairs at PAUSD, said the district makes it their mission to curb discriminatory behavior in Palo Alto schools.

“Schools must be a safe space for all students,” Conaway said. “While there may not be a cure for hate speech, it is important that our entire community collectively develops a counter-speech that fosters higher standards for humanity, compassion, and respect.”

In March 2021, the Palo Alto City Council adopted a resolution committing itself to addressing racism and discrimination in the community. The resolution came after the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the city has focused on securing the safety and well-being of citizens and non-citizens, regardless of race and ethnicity.

“As a person of color and an educator, I am deeply troubled by any act that denigrates, disrespect, or causes harm to any individual or group.” Conaway said.