Latest racist graffiti found at two schools may be tied to earlier incidents, police say Worthington, Mt. Hebron marred

teens suspected

February 11, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Howard County police said yesterday that racist graffiti spray-painted on the walls of Worthington Elementary and Mount Hebron High Schools in Ellicott City this weekend may be linked to similar incidents at other county schools.

School officials believe the recent wave of hate-bias graffiti that has marred school buildings has been committed by a group of teen-agers who have vandalized schools across the county.

Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the county's Board of Education, said school authorities and police cannot assume that the vandals who struck this weekend are students at the affected schools.

"These acts of vandalism go on all the time," Caplan said of the swastikas, racial slurs, graphic sexual drawings and obscenities found on the outside of both school buildings Sunday morning.

"It could be one high school against another, for example," she said. "Until we have more information which leads us to believe that it's a student, there's nothing [school officials] can do."

Worthington Elementary Principal Fran Donaldson said she is confident that none of the students in her school had anything to do with the graffiti found all over the building.

"I really think they were older kids, maybe middle or high school kids," Donaldson said. "There were beer bottles all over the roof, and someone threw large rocks into the windows of the portable classrooms on the grounds."

Police said they are continuing to follow up on leads in each of the incidents, but have made no arrests.

Donaldson said police have promised to increase patrols at the schools when they are not in session.

In addition to the two incidents this past weekend, within the past month spray-painted racist graffiti have been found at Ellicott City Middle School and, on two occasions, on the walls and windows of Howard High School.

In October, Howard County police charged a 14-year-old Mount Airy boy with the Aug. 31 spray-painting of a racial slur on a sign at River Hill High School. He was charged with one count of destruction of property and violation of the racial and religious sections of state law.

This weekend, school administrators made sure the graffiti were gone by the time most of the students arrived for classes yesterday morning. Members of the county school maintenance staff were seen sandblasting the area around the Worthington Elementary sign Sunday afternoon and yesterday morning.

Mount Hebron High junior Charles Harris said yesterday he didn't see any of the racist graffiti that were on the windows of his school. But he said he thinks most Mount Hebron students were unfazed by news of the vandalism.

"I don't think anyone took [the graffiti] personally," Harris said yesterday after classes at the school, the student body of which is about 12 percent Asian, 8 percent African-American, and an even smaller percentage Hispanic. "Most people just though it was an immature thing to do.

"It's sad, but we see it all the time," Harris continued. "The majority of people who do graffiti are just doing it for the attention and the thrill of breaking the rules."

Pub Date: 2/11/97

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