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April 27, 2011

Three students arrested for anti-Semitic graffiti at Calabasas High School

http://www.jewishjournal.com/community/article/three_students_arrested_for_anti-semitic_graffiti_at_calabasas_high_school_

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Three Calabasas High School students were arrested Wednesday morning, April 27, and taken to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Malibu/Lost Hills station in connection with extensive anti-Semitic and racist graffiti found at their school on Saturday, according to Sgt. Eric Lasko of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The students, all of whom, according to a statement from the sheriff’s department, confessed to the vandalism on Tuesday, are expected to be released into their parents’ custody later in the day.

The Sheriff’s Department did not identify the students by name because they are minors, but described them as teenage males in the 11th grade at Calabasas High School, which has a population of about 1,900 students, many of them Jewish.

Shira Peress, a 12th grader and student body vice president at Calabasas High School, said she was disgusted by the graffiti. “I am Jewish, and family members of mine were affected by the acts of the Holocaust,” Peress wrote in an email. “A lot of people were offended by this act, and I hope that justice is served.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney is expected to file charges against the three alleged vandals on Thursday or Friday. Sgt. Mike Holland, an officer with the sheriff’s department, described the teens as “4.0 students” with no prior criminal records. The students could face either felony vandalism or hate-crime charges, according to the sheriff’s department.

The graffiti was found throughout the campus of Calabasas High School on Saturday morning and had been cleaned up by Saturday night. The vandalism included numerous swastikas and a spray-painted portrait of Hitler, along with racist remarks against blacks and Latinos.

The names of four other Calabasas High School students, some of whom are Jewish, were also spray-painted as part of the campus graffiti. “Some of the students who were arrested believed that some of the students named were Jewish,” Las Virgenes Unified School District Superintendent Donald M. Zimring said.

Two teachers’ names also were scrawled by the alleged vandals on the campus property. Zimring said that the arrested students lashed out at the teachers for reasons unrelated to the teachers’ ethnicities or religious identities. “They’re just angry,” Zimring said of the students. “These are angry kids who made a really poor choice.”

“I think it’s a very comfortable atmosphere for Jewish kids,” Zimring said. “I think the anger was from this group of kids who didn’t feel as welcome.” The school is still considering what disciplinary action to take against the students.

Coincidentally, a Holocaust survivor and her daughter are speaking to students at the school on Wednesday and Thursday. The program, Zimring said, had been planned months in advance.

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