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One Calabasas High vandal said to be Jewish

by Jonah Lowenfeld

May 12, 2011 | 4:05 pm

Top row: Graffiti covering the walls and concrete of Calabasas High School (KTLA image captures).

Top row: Graffiti covering the walls and concrete of Calabasas High School (KTLA image captures).

One of the three Calabasas High School students who confessed to defacing their school with anti-Semitic and racist graffiti last month is Jewish, a detective from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department involved in the investigation told the Jewish Journal on Thursday.

“One of them has a mother who fled Iran because she is Jewish,” Detective J. T. Manwell of the Lost Hills/Malibu station said. “So it’s kind of complicated.”

The three 11th graders, all male and who are not being named because they are juveniles, confessed on April 26 to defacing sections of their school’s campus with swastikas, a spray-painted portrait of Hitler and many other racist comments.

The graffiti was found on Saturday morning, April 22, and was widely covered in local media. The 11th graders, who have been described as “4.0 students,” were arrested on April 27 and released into their parents’ custody.

Along with slurs against Jews, Latinos and blacks, the graffiti named four other 11th grade students at Calabasas High School, as well as the names of two teachers. These six victims have been informed of the identities of the three students, Manwell said.

The sheriff’s department presented the case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, first on May 3rd and again, with additional information, on May 5th, Manwell said.

The district attorney has until June 30 to formally charge the students. Manwell said he expected a formal filing soon, and is “very confident” that the D.A. would follow the sheriff’s department’s recommendation to charge all three students with felony vandalism and a hate crime enhancement.

A spokeswoman from the D.A.’s office said that the evidence is still being reviewed, and said it could take until next week for charges to be filed.

Shiara Davila-Morales, a spokeswoman in the district attorney’s office, said the office “can’t confirm the ethnic background of any defendant, be it an adult or minor.” She also said that when it comes to hate crime prosecution, the ethnic identity of a defendant does not matter.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) began consulting with students and administrators from Calabasas High School as well as with officials from the Las Virgenes Unified School District to craft an educational response to the graffiti in the first days after the graffiti was first discovered.

Whether or not one of the defendants is Jewish is of little significance, ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind said. “It doesn’t matter why somebody is motivated to put hateful messages on a wall. The impact of message crimes is the same, and that is to alarm the community. That impact was certainly felt here,” Susskind said.

The three students have been suspended from school since confessing on April 26 and could still be disciplined further by the school.

“We are aggressively exploring other options—and of course the other option is expulsion,” Dan Stephenosky, assistant superintendent for personnel at Las Virgenes Unified School District, said.

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