Glacier Peak High School lunchroom (Rikki King / Herald file)

Glacier Peak High School lunchroom (Rikki King / Herald file)

Racist, homophobic network names shut down school assembly

Students allegedly created Wi-Fi hotspots with offensive names during a pep rally at Glacier Peak High School.

SNOHOMISH — Two students at Glacier Peak High School are being disciplined for allegedly creating derogatory Wi-Fi names using their cellphones during a school assembly Thursday.

The names contained “highly offensive, discriminatory, divisive, inappropriate and, in some cases, racially motivated messages,” school leaders wrote in a message to parents.

A screenshot showed racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic language. Several of the Wi-Fi hotspot names were just a single swastika. At least three messages were targeted at the principal, Jeffrey Larson.

Junior Isaac Ellison was at the winter pep assembly. He said he hadn’t seen anything when the principal suddenly grabbed the microphone, said something about student safety, and sent everyone back to their classrooms.

“Everyone freaked out,” he said.

Students thought they were in danger, he said. One Wi-Fi name that popped up said “Someone shoot this up please.” Another said “Sorry don’t kill me.”

Parents worried too.

Michelle Renschler was at work when she got a text from her daughter.

“As a parent, the first thing you’re thinking is someone is going to have a gun,” she said.

School officials said the act didn’t pose any direct threat, but the network names “may have made our students feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

The students involved will be punished according to policy, said Kristin Foley, a district spokeswoman. School officials are working with law enforcement as well.

Foley said federal privacy law prevents the district from disclosing how the students will be disciplined.

As the investigation continues, Principal Larson wrote, the school will communicate plans to address “threatening and discriminatory behaviors.”

“We will not tolerate hatred, threats, discrimination, intimidation or this type of behavior. There is no place for this in any of our schools, campuses or classrooms,” Larson wrote.

Ellison said the event wasn’t surprising. As one of the few black students at a primarily white school, he said he hears offensive remarks on a regular basis. Sometimes people think they’re just making a joke, he said, but he doesn’t think it’s funny.

“It’s hard sometimes,” he said. “You really just have to get used to it, otherwise school will pretty much be like a living hell.”

He said he hopes students and administrators will talk about racism on the campus. He said he’s helping start a new Black Student Union that could promote dialogue.

Meanwhile, parents said they will attend a Dec. 12 district board meeting to talk with school leaders about the incident.

At the very least, Ellison wants people to be a little more self-aware of their words and actions.

“If you have hurtful thoughts, just keep it to yourself,” he said.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan @heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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