Ardrey Kell students repaint rock with anti-racism messages after it was vandalized

CHARLOTTE — Authorities are trying to figure out who vandalized the spirit rock at a south Charlotte high school after it had been painted with messages against racism and injustice.

Students at Ardrey Kell High School painted the rock with messages that supported the protests in wake of the death of George Floyd.

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By Sunday morning, someone had spray-painted “X” over phrases like “End police brutality” and “I can’t breathe.”

After finding out about the vandalism, the principal of the school, along with some parents and staff, painted over the graffiti. The rock has been cleaned up, but the vandalism has frustrated the community.

Students and parents in Ballantyne took to the streets Sunday to promote their message of justice.

The march, which was planned before the vandalism was discovered, was led by 11-year-old Joshua Broadnax.

“It shouldn’t matter what the color my skin is,” Broadnax said. “It should just matter that I’m human. We’re all human. It doesn’t matter the color of our skin. We have the same blood.”

John Jackson was part of a group of parents from the high school who've been working to facilitate meaningful conversations and action around race and equality.

“We have been working on this with the administration at Ardrey Kell for months, years,” Jackson said.

Several students returned to the spirit rock at 3 p.m. on Monday to restore their message.

And this time, the painting had a lot of the same messages, but they switched up the design to include even more voices.

Students painted hand prints so that everyone who came out to repaint the rock had a chance to leave their mark.

Kayden Hunt, the student body president, was one of the original artists behind the painting. She was devastated to learn someone defaced it.

“We got here. I immediately came to the ground and started crying just seeing it, and had to be held just from everything that went into it, but it was so beautiful to me,” she said.

The principal, David Switzer, tweeted the vandalism does not represent Ardrey Kell.

“The rock is only an example. It’s symbolic of what’s happening in this country. I feel for the kids. I’ve got two of my own,” he said. “Education is going to be the key.”

CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston added he’s spoken with Switzer about the incident and other racial complaints in the school’s recent past.

Winston said they’ve both made the commitment to change its future.

“What’s important to me is we come out of this better than we did on the front of this,” he said.

CMS officials are looking through surveillance video to try to determine who spray-painted over the messages.

Switzer sent the following phone message to parents after the vandalism:

Hello parents this is David Switzer principal with Ardrey Kell HS calling with an important message.

I do not and will not tolerate racism, bigotry or hate

Ardrey Kell HS is not and never will be a haven for racists or bigots.

I’m sorry the incidents have happened at Ardrey Kell High School.

One incident is one too many and it pains me to my core that some in our community continue to express racist views and spew hate speech.

Let me be clear, we believe that Black Lives Matter.

If you harbor hate, if you identify with racist thinking you have no place at Ardrey Kell HS.

Our administration, our staff and our student body will continue to have conversations about how we will eliminate racism and will take active steps that show Ardrey Kell HS is a model of inclusion and diversity

To those who would try to divide and take us down, know this we will get up, we will be stronger than ever before and we will show strength in our togetherness to defeat hate and racism..

Today our school family and community took action against this hate by repainting the rock to restore the message of our fight against racism

This shows that our community can and will come together during these times

Please join us in this fight.

Have a good night.

CMS Statement:

"The district is aware of unauthorized spray paintings/graffiti on the rocks on school properties. The graffiti has been removed. We would remind anyone who trespasses on CMS premises that all properties are closed after hours.'