April 26, 2011
Police say Calabasas High students were behind anti-Semitic graffiti
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Investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have identified three students at Calabasas High School as the alleged vandals behind extensive anti-Semitic graffiti found on school property on Saturday morning, April 23, a spokesperson from the Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday afternoon. The students have not yet been charged, and the case will be presented to a district attorney on Friday, according to Sgt. Mike Holland of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
Names of the students to be charged will be released mid-day on Wed. April 27, Holland said.
The graffiti, which was removed before the start of school on Monday, included numerous swastikas on lockers, walls and pavement, and a spray-painted portrait of Hitler. News reports said that the graffiti also targeted groups other than Jews, including blacks and Latinos.
The scrawlings included the names of seven Calabasas High School students and two teachers at the school. All of the students targeted by the vandals are members of the school’s 11th grade class, and most, though not all, are Jewish.
This is not the first such incident at the school; in January 2010 a student who is Jewish found a swastika carved into the hood of his car. No one was charged for the incident. At that time, the school’s principal, C.J. Foss, suggested that it was a personal attack by one student against another.
Police did not release the names of the three students alleged to be behind the graffiti, but said they are also members of the 11th grade class at the high school.
“They’re all 4.0 students, on both sides,” Holland said.
Since the incident, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has interviewed more than 100 students, including those named in the graffiti and the suspects. Holland said that the three alleged vandals told investigators that they had been mistreated by their fellow students at the school, and specifically by the seven students whose names were found spray-painted on the school’s walls.
Holland said the three students told investigators that they believed the students named in the markings are Jewish.
Calabasas High School is a California Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon School. The student body has a large Jewish population.
Holland said the Sheriff’s Department will search the home of one of the three students on April 27. When the case is presented on Fri. April 29, the district attorney will decide whether to charge the students with criminal vandalism or a hate crime. All of them are minors, and none have prior criminal records.
Holland said that there is evidence suggesting that the suspects have indeed been “picked on” by other students over the course of the school year.
“It’s not as black and white as people think,” he said.
“These kids will be prosecuted for it, because their actions were illegal,” Holland said.
Students at the school have begun to receive tolerance training by a sherriff’s department program in the aftermath of the incident.