Local News

Thursday, Mar 01 2012 05:16 PM

Vandals punished after defacing own campus

BY JORGE BARRIENTOS Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

It was supposed to be a senior prank. Instead, six McFarland students caused up to $50,000 in damage to their school.

The six teens broke onto McFarland High School's campus during Presidents' Day, spray painted "2012," profanity and obscenities on nearly 10 buildings and put glue inside door locks. In all, they caused $40,000 to $50,000 in damage, district officials said.

"They called it a senior prank, but when you cause $50,000 in damage, that's not a prank, that's vandalism," McFarland Unified Superintendent Gabriel McCurtis said.

The students, five of whom are seniors on campus, are being punished. That includes being placed in independent study and "a significant amount" of community service, McCurtis said. The seniors also won't be able to graduate with their class.

Because some of them are college-bound and all have expressed deep remorse, McCurtis said, they will not be expelled.

One student told KERO Channel 23 he was accepted to Cal Poly Pomona and felt "a sense of remorse and regret, not just for me but for all the people who were involved."

The district is waiting on exact estimates to re-paint walls, doors and trimmings, for example. But any amount is significant considering the district is being hit with budget cuts, like all public school districts across the state, officials said. The $50,000 could be used to buy classroom sets of textbooks or pay a portion of a salary, district business officials said.

"This whole thing was unfortunate, and people make mistakes. I think they're all remorseful," McCurtis said. "But it's significant vandalism you cannot allow."

McFarland Police Department officials detained the students, but left punishment up to the school district, police said.

This is at least the second school prank on a local campus gone wrong.

A 16-year-old Liberty High School sophomore was arrested two weeks ago on suspicion of possessing items to make a destructive device. He planned to put the explosive device in a bathroom canister as a prank, but another student who learned what the boy possessed alerted police first.

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