SALT LAKE CITY — The principals of rival Salt Lake City high schools East and Highland jointly urged students Monday to dial back rivalry-fueled vandalism, which some have come to view as traditions.
Certain "traditions" need to be addressed, wrote East High Principal Greg Maughan and Highland High Principal Chris Jenson, in a statement to the school communities.
"We understand these are sometimes brushed aside as tradition, but tradition should never push any of us over the line of breaking the law," they wrote.
Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen said Monday that the intent of the principals' statement is to encourage a community conversation about the schools' rivalry.
"What they're trying to do is improve the rivalry. By that, they don't want to get rid of it. They love the rivalry. They love the spirit of competition, the kids dressing up and painting their faces for the games, the cheering, everything like that. But they want to keep it in the bounds of the law," Olsen said.
Highland's "H" rock was painted earlier this school year. The "E" along 1300 East across the street from East High was tagged this past weekend.
"Adding to that, East High’s stadium (artificial turf), baseball and tennis court areas, and front of the main school building were heavily tagged," they wrote, adding: "Last year, the Highland neighborhood was heavily tagged as well. The students who most recently vandalized will potentially face criminal charges should they be discovered during the investigations."
(The school principals) love the rivalry. They love the spirit of competition ... But they want to keep it in the bounds of the law.
–Jason Olsen, Salt Lake School District
Maughan and Jenson called on parents and the school communities to discuss with their children and fellow students "the dangers and repercussions of vandalism, and how it has a large negative impact on our larger community. One of our bigger fears is that it also breeds a desire for retaliation."
The principals "want to keep this rivalry strong but they want to improve it and make sure it just stays on the football field, on the basketball court, just where it's supposed to be," Olsen said.
That said, the two principals thanked the school communities for the respect demonstrated Friday when a moment of silence was conducted to acknowledge the loss of a Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts student who recently died by suicide. The charter school has a partnership with Highland High School.
"It's that deep love and respect for our communities that exemplifies everything we try to teach our students," they wrote.