School community reels at City College vandalism

Police say a group of youths caused more than $100,000 in damage during weekend rampage

August 15, 2006|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

City College art teacher Bill Holly's typically neat studio space was trashed yesterday: Large puddles and zig-zag splashes of paint covered the floor and walls, and an obscenity was scrawled across a table.

"They threw one of my statues out the window," said Holly, a graduate of City College and staff member for seven years. Besides the paint and shattered artwork, Holly lost most if not all of his computers, as well as a human skeleton he used to teach students how to capture the human form.

"I don't know what to say," said the teacher. "I'm really upset."

Holly's pain was shared by many yesterday at the hilltop campus on 33rd Street in Northeast Baltimore, where school police say at least seven young vandals did significant damage Sunday evening.

School officials were still working on a damage estimate late yesterday but said they believe losses in office equipment, supplies and furniture will be "well beyond $100,000." Insurance will cover the loss, they said.

School police arrested five youths yesterday and Sunday and charged them with breaking and entering, vandalism, and destruction of property, said school system spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt. Two other youths were still being sought, but police have "excellent leads," she said.

The vandals, who might have been in the school for as little as an hour, did significant damage, stuffing items into copiers and jamming them, breaking windows, upsetting heavy metal lockers, dumping water coolers, and using fire extinguishers to coat offices with a thick layer of fine, yellowish dust.

Pyatt said school police have requested a meeting with city prosecutors to discuss the vandalism case as well as others.

She said police want to know whether they can charge the youths' parents and hold them financially responsible for the damage done to the school.

The names of the youths have not been released because they were charged as juveniles.

Pyatt said that the school system also is investigating why it took school police nearly an hour to respond to the alarm at City College.

She said the school's burglar alarm went off about 6 p.m. Sunday, but the system's two on-duty school police officers did not arrive until nearly 7 p.m. Pyatt said the officers were detained because they were investigating another alarm at another school.

A summer school program held at City College will resume today, Pyatt said.

As word of the scale of the vandalism spread, alumni of the public high school, one of Baltimore's most prestigious, flocked to the campus to lend a hand cleaning the library, which was also hit.

"There's no reasonable explanation for something like this," said Neil Bernstein, a past president of the City College Alumni Association.

"I'd like to know where these kids' parents thought they were at 6 p.m. on a Sunday night," he said.

Many alumni expressed relief that the vandals did not destroy photos, trophies and other memorabilia in glass cases in the school's Hall of Fame.

However, a glass case that holds reproductions of old swords - the school's sports teams are called the Knights - was broken. One of the swords, a particularly large one, was removed from the case but was not taken.

Teachers and other school officials also came to the campus to inspect the damage or help with cleanup, including interim schools chief Charlene Cooper Boston, who told City College Principal Timothy Dawson that she was "sorry something like this had to happen."

But Dawson said he and his staff would not be defeated. Classes resume for city students Aug. 28, and the principal said he was confident that the mess would be removed by then.

"We shall overcome, we shall overcome," Dawson repeated as he toured the school's guidance offices, where vandals ripped bulletin boards off walls and tipped over metal file cabinets. The vandals also threw papers from counselors' offices all around a common area and emptied desk drawers on the floor.

"It's just a total mess," said Donna Givens, head of the school's guidance office, who was sorting through dumped paperwork.

Both Givens and Dawson agreed, however, that it could have been worse.

"There's a lot of damage but it's not daunting," said Dawson.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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