Swastika-like symbols at Woodside High School prompt investigation | November 10, 2023 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - November 10, 2023

Swastika-like symbols at Woodside High School prompt investigation

Principal didn't say if anyone faced repercussions for defacing school property

by Sue Dremann

Two symbols that appeared to be swastikas were found on the Woodside High School campus on Wednesday, prompting an investigation that included the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, a letter from school Principal Karen Van Putten confirmed on Friday, Nov. 3.

The two symbols were drawn or scratched into the pavement, according to witnesses.

In a message to the Woodside school community, Van Putten said administrators were informed of "two drawings on our campus grounds that appeared to resemble a symbol of hate," on Nov. 1.

"We contacted the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department in order to investigate the matter and determine if our school was at risk of a potential threat."

An investigation by school administrators and the sheriff's office determined the school isn't under a threat, she said. Instead, the school confirmed the drawings were not intended to be hate speech targeted at anyone or any group.

"Our mutual investigation was able to confirm that it was a spiritual symbol from Japanese Buddhism known as Manji popularized by anime. To make that determination, beyond interviews, we were able to view the anime/manga images used as the genesis of the drawings and were able to verify the testimony we received," she said.

Van Putten didn't say whether the person or persons involved faced any repercussions for defacing the school.

Campus staff could be seen painting over the symbols on Friday, but not everyone felt the matter was settled.

At least one member of the school community told this news publication via text they were deeply upset by the symbols and questioned the explanation.

"What a crock of !#%$," the community member said. The school knows "full well how painful it is for Jewish students and staff to see but then goes and has it painted over if it's only anime?"

The person said they were heartbroken after learning that another parent told their child to stop wearing a Star of David necklace to school.

Van Putten said she understood that some community members might not accept the explanation.

"I know that the idea of hate speech on our campus is heartbreaking for all of us. I, too, was saddened by the idea that hate speech may have occurred on our campus, as we do not tolerate any hateful speech or actions on our campus," she said.

"I recognize that this explanation may not feel like enough for some in our community. This is an isolated incident that we have investigated with sensitivity and seriousness, and we are committed to educating all our students. When you have a concern, our staff and I will listen and problem-solve with you because your safety, well-being, and feeling of being a part of our community are top priorities at Woodside High School."

The Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent Crystal Leach didn't return requests for comment, nor did most members of the Board of Trustees as of Friday night. Trustee Carrie Du Bois said that all press inquiries would be handled by President Richard Ginn. n


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