Paint job raises questions about use of Coupeville High School rock

Instead of the usual birthday greetings, the rock was transformed into the Palestinian flag.

For a brief moment or two Sunday, the rock in front of Coupeville High School threatened to become a major point of contention.

Instead of the usual birthday greetings or rah-rah statements about school sports teams, the rock, which is frequently spray-painted, was transformed into the Palestinian flag.

The public sidewalk in front of the rock was also painted with “free Palestine,” competing with chalk drawings of hearts and smiley faces done by local students.

Reaction on social media was fast and furious, but some of those venting need to sit down and take a chill pill.

I have substantial Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, so it’s not hard to guess which side I take in this argument.

But what matters here is no one involved with Coupeville schools appears to be responsible for the graffiti. So, take your “oh, they’re indoctrinating the students” and go tell it to the squirrels. At least that way you’ll be getting some sunshine.

The facts are these:

School officials were apprised of the situation in early morning emails Monday, at which point they reviewed security cameras in the area.

Those cameras show the rock being painted Saturday by two men, then painted over Sunday by others.

Footage was viewed by longtime town residents, and no one involved appears to be a Coupeville teacher or student.

There was, however, an influx of visitors to the town this weekend, with Practical Magic’s 25th anniversary celebration. As well as an attempted protest at South Whidbey High School Saturday, where a Seattle Academy transgender student, finished third in the girls race at the District 2 Cross Country Championships.

The rock, which has sat in front of the CHS gym for decades, is a frequent target for spray paint artists, generally with positive, school-related messages. From time to time, however, it has been hijacked.

Since it sits on school property, district officials have been clear they will remove messages which take a political stance, whether it be in support of a specific school board candidate or taking sides in a geopolitical conflict.

While the second paint job was done by someone not affiliated with the school, groundskeepers would have done the same.

“It was not covered by the school as we were not aware of it,” said Coupeville Superintendent Steve King. “It was covered by someone in the community.

“The rock is for promoting school activities or events and positive student messages such as birthdays, etc.

“We do not allow political statements on the rock and as soon as we are aware of them, we have them removed.

“Our history has been that our Coupeville students use the rock in positive ways that the district supports.”

Speaking specifically to conflicts in the Middle East, King issued a statement earlier this month, asking for compassion.

“It may be difficult for many to escape the mixed emotions inflicted by this war.

Still, we must be aware of the possible emotional and psychological impact on our students, staff, and families with personal and familial ties to Israel and Palestine, and to Jewish and Islamic faiths.

This can also impact many in our school community who are in the military or who have family members in the military.

Despite the uncertainty and global conflict, we are committed to supporting each other and working together on behalf of our students.

I ask that we continue to show compassion and kindness and assume positive intent.

Please join me in hoping for peace and greater unity in our world and nation.”

David Svien

David Svien