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Students charged in South High vandalism

November 12, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Three South Hagerstown High School students have been charged with spray painting their school this past weekend with North Hagerstown High School colors and names, City Police Officer Steve Cromer said Thursday.

Cromer, South High's school resource officer, said that two seniors, both 17, and a junior, 16, all boys, were charged Tuesday with malicious destruction of property more than $500 and trespassing.

"All three of them are good kids and they thought it was a cool school prank, a senior prank. They wanted North High to look bad," Cromer said.

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Cromer said the graffiti was still visible Thursday. Damage to the school has been estimated at between $8,000 and $12,000, he said.

South High Principal Richard Akers said the youths were indefinitely suspended from school.

"There are serious consequences for these types of acts," he said.

Cromer said the youths were not taken into custody.

South High was spray painted over the weekend in North High's red and black colors. In some places, South's name was crossed out and North or NHHS was written. Other graffiti included derogatory messages about South High and a racial epithet, Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. Curt Wood has said.

The vandalism followed the Nov. 5 North High football team's 39-0 win against South High in Hagerstown's Gridiron Championship Classic at School Stadium, which is played on South's campus.

Akers, who has said he learned of the vandalism Sunday night from the school's head custodian, said Thursday that he wasn't surprised North High students were innocent of the act.

"It followed on the heels of a North High win," he said. "There was nothing to be angry about. I didn't think it had any connection to the North High game. It was just vandalism and that gave them a topic."

Akers commended Cromer for finding those alleged to be responsible. Cromer, who commended North and South high school principals for their involvement in the investigation, said he felt his rapport with students at the school helped uncover those involved in the vandalism.

"Of course you can't do something like this and remain anonymous," Cromer said. "Their names were floating all over the place. I talked to them and they told me."

The building still tells the story. Cromer said maintenance crews from the Washington County Board of Education and South High power washed the brick and were able to fade the messages, but they were still visible.

Cromer said that the school's entrance marquis was destroyed. The substance used to clean the spray paint off the lighted marquis essentially ruined the sign, he said.

He said some red lettering that spelled out South Hagerstown High School "cleaned up perfect." But he added that areas spray painted along the roofline will need to be painted over.

North High Principal Robert "Bo" Myers called the vandalism "a sad state of affairs."

"I'm very disappointed to hear that any student would vandalize their own school," he said.

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