Parents may pay for teens' rampage Damages to school estimated at $20,000

December 18, 1990|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

The price tag for a teen-age rampage through a Dundalk-area elementary school is estimated to be $20,000 to $30,000 in damage to the building and equipment.

And if Baltimore County School Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel has his way, the bill ultimately will be paid not by the taxpayers, but by the parents of the culprits.

"We feel very strongly about" seeking restitution from parents, said Dubel. "We're very hard-nosed on this."

Under law, the parents of children who cause serious damage to property can be made to pay, said Lee Thompson, an assistant county attorney. A county judge ordered such repayment in 1979 from two sets of parents after severe damage by their 14-year-old sons to two Lutherville-area schools.

But before any damages can be awarded in the latest case, the three teen-agers accused of destroying equipment and setting fire to the Charlesmont Elementary School will have to be found delinquent in Juvenile Court.

E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman, said police charged the three boys, ages 14, 16 and 17, each with delinquency in the arson, breaking and entering and destruction of property.

They were released into the custody of their parents yesterday morning, Miller said.

Meanwhile, at Charlesmont Elementary yesterday, teachers dusted soot off library books, while a small army of county workers cleaned up the debris caused by the fire and general destruction.

The school, in the 7800 block of W. Collingham Drive, closed yesterday, but Principal Harold L. Goodspeed said it would reopen today.

"They broke in through a window in the boiler room," Goodspeed said. "They ransacked the office."

But the main damage was caused by a fire that was set in the audio-visual storage room, next to the school library, Goodspeed said.

The school's television monitors, video cassette recorders and computers were stored in that room. Many were damaged by smoke from the fire, but it's unclear how many are total losses, Goodspeed said.

Kenneth C. Lambert, head of security for the school system, said the most expensive damage to the building was scorched and sooty ceiling tiles, which will have to be replaced.

Lambert, with the school system 17 years, said he is grateful the damage was not more severe.

"We're really very lucky," he said. "Everything worked the way it's supposed to. The alarm sounded, the police responded and the fire was discovered early."

An officer responding to a burglar alarm about 3 a.m. saw one teen-ager climbing out a window as he drove up.

After chasing down that suspect, the officer returned to the building, where he smelled smoke. Firefighters extinguished the blaze.

The other two boys were arrested later at or near their homes.

Lambert said the vandalism is the first serious incident at a county school in two years.

"The kids in the county have been pretty darn good the past two years," Lambert said. "Let's hope this doesn't spark other incidents."

In the 1979 case, a Circuit Court judge ordered the two Lutherville couples whose sons were convicted of vandalizing Lutherville Elementary and Ridgely Junior High schools to pay $10,100 each for help cover the damages. The estimate of damage to the elementary school ranged from $200,000 to $400,000. The damage to the junior high was set at $9,140.

Judge Edward A. DeWaters Jr. placed a lien against the homes of the boys' parents to insure payment. One set of parents appealed the ruling to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, but lost.

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