Portland Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, says it’s experiencing record levels of graffiti and vandalism at school buildings.
Records obtained by WW show the district has dedicated 7,399 hours since July 2020 to repairing broken windows shattered by BB guns and rocks, and scrubbing graffiti from restroom walls and school exteriors.
Repair crews have responded to 1,959 separate instances of vandalism since mid-2020. The district did not provide numbers from prior to 2020 for comparison, but it says the spike is significant.
“We have seen a significant increase in vandalism, graffiti, and loitering on our campuses districtwide. Ninety percent of our facilities have been damaged by vandalism and graffiti in the last two years,” says district spokesman Ryan Vandehey. “Graffiti has been a consistent issue, but we are seeing an increase in broken and shot out windows.”
The district estimates it has spent upwards of $200,000 on graffiti cleanup since mid-2020, and at least that much to repair shattered windows.
A sampling of the graffiti and vandalism: someone spray painting “Prioritize White Students” on the exterior of Lincoln High School, BB gun pellets shattering windows, a painted image of a knife going through a teacher’s head at Alameda Elementary School, and a thrown beer bottle that penetrated a window.
Most incidences occurred at the district’s high schools, but one elementary school in particular has seen more vandalism than all the others: Creston, a K-5 school in Southeast Portland.
One brand of vandalism that’s cost the districts hours of repair time and thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs: dog owners at Hosford Middle School breaking locks and cutting their way through fences since the school locked down its field late last year. Dog owners have also been getting in heated confrontations with campus security officers.
In a letter sent to school families and neighbors last week, Hosford principal Jill Liddle wrote that dog owners have been harassing, following and threatening staff since school began. She also reported people throwing feces at the building.