PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In what was called an “incredibly disturbing” act by Portland Public Schools officials, a noose was found at Chapman Elementary School in an area “generally accessed only by custodial and maintenance staff.”
In a letter sent home to families on Wednesday, Chapman Elementary Principal Pamela Van Der Wolf said a maintenance staff member found the noose in a fan room under the school building.
“This act is incredibly disturbing and hate speech is never tolerated in any PPS school or anywhere in our district,” Van Der Wolf wrote, in part.
The letter said they don’t believe any students saw the noose or were involved.
School officials called Portland police and said they did a threat assessment. Police confirmed they’re investigating and don’t believe there is any danger to the community.
PPS officials wrote, “This incident is an affront to our core values of Racial Equity and Social Justice, Respect, Honesty and Integrity.”
Read the full statements from PPS and from Chapman Elementary below.
George Lopez, who told KOIN 6 News he’s Latino and has a son who is half-black and half-Latin, said the noose at the school is very concerning.
“What’s more concerning is how diminished the communication around it is, the lack of bigger conversation around it.”
He said the school sending an email “just kind of diminishing the impact that this has to diverse communities,” and that only sending the email “causes more concern.”
Lopez said he moved to Portland from the East Coast last December and said in the “super diverse cities” like Boston and New York he “would have never experienced something like this.”
He’s concerned for his child and said he doesn’t “know if this is a safe place.” He added he’s really not the type of person to talk to a TV news crew, but “I think this is an issue, especially as it presents itself as a concern for my child.”
Another parent, an African-American woman who asked to keep her name private, said she’s known the Chapman community to be “a loving and caring community, and very supportive of me and my daughter.”
She said to look deeper than just looking at the circumstances.
“When I consider what’s taken place, it’s really an illness and if we’re really going to address the issue, let’s get to the root of it. Let’s not put a Band-aid on it it. Let’s really consider the thought and the action and the meditation that was behind actually creating the issue at hand.”
She said the noose at the school doesn’t scare her. “It doesn’t. And I truly believe in the power of prayer.”
The woman said she feels sympathy for whoever put the noose there “and just really hope that they get the needs that they need to be met.”
Another parent told KOIN 6 News she’s keeping her child at home until she can be certain there is no threat.
The district had extra counselors at the school on Thursday to help support students and staff.
Anyone with information about the incident should contact the school or report it anonymously to SafeOregon by calling or texting 844.472.3367.
Read: The full letter from Principal Pamela Van Der Wolf
Dear Chapman Community,
I am sad and disheartened to share that someone engaged in racially motivated hate speech in our school yesterday. A noose was found by someone on the maintenance team in a mechanical room, which is generally accessed only by custodial and maintenance staff. This act is incredibly disturbing, and hate speech is never tolerated in any PPS school or anywhere in our District.
Once the Chapman administration learned of this incident, we invoked District reporting and response protocols and contacted the Portland Police Bureau. Portland Police came to the school, did their own threat assessment, and an investigation is in progress. While internal and external investigations have just begun, we have no indication that any students witnessed or were involved in this incident.
Ensuring safety and inclusion for all employees and students is central to the District’s mission and core values. Hate is not tolerated nor accepted in our community. This incident is an affront to our core values of Racial Equity and Social Justice, Respect, Honesty and Integrity. We value and respect everyone in our school community and understand that our diversity makes us stronger. Everyone is welcome at Chapman and PPS, and everyone belongs. Every student and staff member deserves a positive educational experience where they feel safe, secure, and a sense of belonging.
If you or your student has any information about this incident or of any other incident of hate speech, or other acts of racism or racial insensitivity, please do not hesitate to let me know immediately. You can report it to me directly or anonymously to SafeOregon (you can call or text 844-472-3367).
Pamela Van Der Wolf
Read: The full statement from Portland Public Schools
A noose was found by someone on the maintenance team in the fan room under the school building at Chapman School; that room is generally accessed only by custodial and maintenance staff.
This act is incredibly disturbing, and hate speech is never tolerated in our school or anywhere in our District. This incident is an affront to our core values of Racial Equity and Social Justice, Respect, Honesty and Integrity. We value and respect everyone in our school community and understand that our diversity makes us stronger. Everyone is welcome at Chapman and PPS, and everyone belongs. Every student and staff member deserves an environment where they feel safe, secure, and a sense of belonging.
Our first and most essential responsibility is students’ well-being, both physical and emotional safety. PPS follows specific protocol in these types of situations. We have district support services staff on campus today, supporting students and staff who need it.Remember to follow KOIN 6 News on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Download our free news and weather apps for the latest headlines and forecast information.