Shawnee Mission reviewing potential hate crime classification with FBI for SM East shed vandalism

Director of Safety and Security John Douglass . File photo.
Director of Safety and Security John Douglass . File photo.

The Shawnee Mission School District Police Department has contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in relation to the vandalism of three sheds at SM East Thursday night, and says the two agencies are reviewing the incident together to determine whether hate crime charges could be filed against perpetrators.

Shawnee Mission Director of Safety and Security John Douglass said Monday that to date one 18 year old student had been charged with vandalism as a result of the incident, but that the department had identified “numerous” other juveniles who witnessed the event. He said that “additional charges are under review but will not be determined until the case is completed.”

SM East staff arrived at the school Friday morning — the day of the basketball games between SM East and SM South, a rivalry that has not been entirely civil in recent years — to find that three outbuildings adjacent to the SM East athletic fields had been spray painted with racial, sexual and political messages. One building had the words “East loves Nazi” written on it, along with four swastikas.

“The charge is vandalism. Some see this as a trivial charge but in fact it is the only applicable charge available,” Douglass said. “It also can be very serious with serious consequences as it is in this case. While there was hate speech involved, Kansas does not have a hate crime law.”

Under the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, however, the FBI has the ability to investigate a crime as a potential hate crime if there is evidence that the perpetrator acted in response to a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.

“We have contacted the FBI and are reviewing it with them.  No determination has yet been made,” Douglass said.

The case was filed through the Johnson County District Attorney’s office.