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American graffiti covers Red Wing High School

Students painted doors at Red Wing High School in addition to windows, which washed clean. This door behind the school must be repainted. (Republican Eagle photo by Anne Jacobson)

By John R. Russett and Anne Jacobson

Early Monday morning, Red Wing High School personnel reported to Red Wing police that they found graffiti written on doors, windows, and the front sidewalk of the school.

An unidentified group of students is apparently responsible.

“It’s being called the Winger Tea Party,” said Bryce Reps, senior at RWHS.

"It's patriotic retaliation on the part of the kids for decisions by the administration," Reps added.

“USA” was spray-painted on a door, American flags, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “All we want is PEACE,” and “Class of 2014” were a few of the things drawn on the front sidewalk in chalk.

Reps wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Sept. 18 edition of the Republican Eagle in which he criticized district officials for not commemorating Sept. 11 as the high school has in years past. He started a petition, which more than 400 students signed, asking that the district strive never to forget the terrorist attacks of 2001.

A group of students then approached the administration about holding ‘Merica Monday to open the 2013 Homecoming celebration. The Student Council traditionally designates dress-up themes for each day of the week.

Reps said some students became mad again. They thought dropping the A sounded good with Monday.

The name could carry racial connotations, administrators responded, and could be offensive to some student groups.

“We didn’t realize that,” Reps said. The name was changed to National Pride Day.

The district settled a lawsuit in August 2012 stemming from unsanctioned dress-up day during Homecoming 2009.

Former student Quera Pruitt filed a federal lawsuit claiming racial discrimination. Pruitt will receive $90,000. Pruitt, who is black, sued over "Wangster Day" or "Wigger Day," claiming the incident violated her civil rights.

The district continued to deny any wrongdoing in the out-of-court settlement.

Maxine Pruitt, the girl’s mother, also had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in November 2009. That complaint resulted in the OCR issuing a two-year plan for the district that included changing policies and procedures on harassment.

“The sad thing is the administration is so concerned after the ‘Wangster’ incident,” Reps said of not holding ‘Merica Monday. “We’re vulnerable, which is unfortunate.”

Reps declined to say if he knew who was responsible. “I don’t want to be involved” with the vandalism, he said. But added that he understands why students aren’t happy.

Supt. Karsten Anderson said his concern isn’t with the message the graffiti conveyed: He is mostly concerned with the paint.

“Kids got onto the roof and painted the skylight,” Anderson said.

All the paint was washed off the windows before classes started on Monday, Anderson said, but there is still no estimate as to how much it will cost to have doors repainted.

Anderson said forks and spoons were found in the lawn of the high school as well. The lawn and the graffiti was all part of a coordinated effort, he said.

As word spread early Monday morning, Reps said he went to see the Principal Beth Borgen and Assistant Principal Corey Knighton. He said after his letter to the editor criticizing the administration he knew he would be contacted, so he went to the office first.

“I asked them what I could do as a student to keep the day calm or normal,” Reps said.

Students said Tuesday that things had settled down.

Damage was also done to the soccer field over the weekend, police said. District officials determined that was a separate incident.