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Warrant issued for Hedgesville High student in tire vandalism

May 07, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday for one of four Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School students suspended for deflating tires on more than 80 school buses last week and slashing tires on two other vehicles on Berkeley County Schools transportation department property, according to court records.

Joseph Douglas Schildt, 18, of Falling Waters, W.Va., was charged with five misdemeanor counts - trespassing, destruction of property, tampering with motor vehicles, conspiracy to commit destruction of property and disturbance of schools, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

The warrant was issued by Magistrate Harry L. Snow, who handled the complaint filed by the West Virginia State Police against the defendant, according to court records.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely on Tuesday evening could not clarify whether petitions had been filed charging the other three students as juveniles.

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The students are accused of deflating 110 bus tires and slashing tires on a county-owned Plymouth car and a privately owned Ford Expedition parked at the school district's Harlan Springs Road property on April 30, police have said.

The tire-flattening prompted school officials to cancel classes, which school officials said was a costly disruption.

Surveillance video helped police determine that the defendants cut the property's barbed wire-topped fence at 88 Harlan Springs Road about 3 a.m. on the south side.

Bus tires were deflated in a matter of seconds after the students removed or partially unscrewed valve stem cores to let the air escape, school officials have said.

Several anonymous tips led investigating State Police Trooper D.S. See to Hedgesville High School, where he interviewed the four students Thursday, West Virginia State Police First Sgt. E.D. Burnett said.

Jaimee Borger, spokesperson for Berkeley County Schools, said school officials were not yet ready to release an estimate of costs associated with the incident.

Officials last week estimated property damage was at least $900, but indirect costs as a result of canceling school were much greater.

"That didn't put a price on the instructional time that we've lost," Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II said several hours after the incident happened.

The students accused are expected to complete a 10-day suspension from school next week. The Board of Education, meanwhile, is expected to hold hearings to decide whether to expel them from classes by the end of the suspension.

The tire deflation of nearly half the school district's 192-bus fleet caused Berkeley County Schools students to miss an eighth day of classes in the 2007-08 school year. The other days were missed because of inclement weather, officials have said.

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