Maricopa Police Chief Steven Stahl told a standing-room-only crowd of parents, students, MUSD staff and community members their city is safe.
“You live in one of the safest communities not only in Arizona, but in the United States of America,” he told the people gathered a day after Maricopa High School was shut down after racial slurs were graffitied inside and outside campus buildings.
Stahl assured the crowd the incident at the high school was isolated and his officers and detectives have worked long hours and “have some primary investigative leads we’ve either talked to, or are currently looking for.”
He joined with Maricopa Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Ember Conley in calling on community members to get to know their neighbors and help each other.
Wednesday’s meeting in the MUSD governing board room was set up by the police department, school district, city of Maricopa and Maricopa Ministerial Association.
The high school was closed for the day Tuesday before classes even started when the first staff to arrive in the morning saw broken windows and graffiti.
Stahl said Wednesday night the two goals when police arrived were to make sure students and staff were safe, and were not exposed to what was written. He called the language “vulgar, very inappropriate, and certainly not anything any one of you in this room would be proud of.”
He commended students on how well they acted on returning to school Wednesday.
“Your children’s performance was outstanding today, simply outstanding,” he said.
The chief asked parents to keep an eye on anything their children are texting, posting on Facebook, or putting on YouTube that could help solve the crime.
Stahl encouraged anyone with information to call Silent Witness at 520-316-6900.
Elsa Martinez came Wednesday night because she said she was concerned for her son who goes to the school.
“It’s really scary what I saw in the news,” she said. “I’m really scared for my son.”
She said she felt “better with what the chief said.”
Conley, who started the meeting by asking everyone to “model” respectful behavior for their children, said the district is committed to diversity and cultural sensitivity.
“I hope you came here because you’re angry, we are, but we’re here to reclaim our community and become one,” she said.
She presented demographic statistics showing the district’s diversity: 3 percent of the high school students are Asian/Pacific; 10 percent Native American; 17 percent African American; 35 percent Hispanic; and 35 percent Caucasian.
There is no majority here,” Conley said. “We are all the minorities.”
Further, she pointed out the high school has 759 male students and 686 female students. Thirty percent of those students live with a guardian (10 percent with grandparents), 53 percent are on free and reduced lunch, and 40 students have been identified as homeless.
“Every child needs someone to be their mentor,” Conley said, adding that “30 percent don’t live with a parent. That’s huge. It doesn’t mean they aren’t loved, but it means they need extra support.”
The district started gathering support by asking those in the audience to write down on sticky notes their ideas for coming together as a community and supporting cultural sensitivity and tolerance.
Audience members wrote their ideas, attaching them to big sheets of white paper.