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Vandals strike new high school

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Feb. 24, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 23, 2011 at 8:24 p.m.

Tim Robison power washes the entrance to Victoria East High School where graffiti was found Thursday morning.

Vandals struck East High School on Wednesday night defacing numerous buildings with graffiti, some profanity laced, some possibly gang-related.

Wendy Barefield, whose son Joshua is a freshman at East, was angered when she saw the graffiti Thursday morning.

"We teach our children not to vandalize and to respect other people's property and then we walk up to this beautiful school, and this is what we see," she said. "They think they can do what they want to do and there's no consequences. It's awful. It's terrible."

Joshua agreed.

"It's not a good thing. It's bad," he said.

Victoria school district spokeswoman Diane Boyett used stronger terms.

"The reaction is one of anger and disappointment," she said. "The taxpayers of Victoria work hard for their tax dollars. They gave a very generous gift to the children of our community when the bonds were approved for new schools and facilities. So anytime someone seeks to damage this gift, everyone in the community should share in that anger and disappointment.

"Most people have pride in these schools. Sadly, some individuals value ignorance over education and demonstrate it through acts of vandalism such as this."

CLEANUP

Custodial staff reported the vandalism to the maintenance department about 7:30 a.m., said Boyett. District maintenance personnel were quick to clean up the graffiti.

"We're using a super strip paint remover to soften up the paint, then take it off with a pressure washer," said Felix Santana of the maintenance department. "Anything more than that scars the brick."

Santana and co-workers Salvador Flores and Tim Robison worked to remove the graffiti. Steve Seekamp, store manager of Sherwin-Williams, also chipped in with the clean-up.

"We'll use an anti-graffiti coating on it Friday after it's all cleaned off," Seekamp said. "It will provide a seal so if they tag it again with spray paint, it can be power washed off without having to use a chemical stripper."

Coincidentally, Seekamp said, he had planned a demonstration Thursday for the school district of the anti-graffiti seal.

"We were just going to use a board we spray paint but now, unfortunately, we have a real-life demonstration," he said.

PUNISHMENT

Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure said those who committed the vandalism can be in serious trouble.

"The crime of graffiti is typically a misdemeanor, depending on the damage amount," said the chief.

However, Ure pointed out, painting graffiti on school property puts the crime in a different category.

"Then it's a state jail felony," he said.

The punishment range runs from 180 days to two years confinement and a fine of up to $10,000, according to the police chief.

Boyett said the school district, too, would seek to punish the vandals.

"Someone has information on who did this crime and hopefully anyone with information will share that information with law enforcement, school personnel or through a Crimestoppers tip," Boyett said. "VISD will fully cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation into this vandalism. If the culprits are students, they will face school disciplinary action in addition to criminal prosecution."

"There are cameras on the campus and tapes are being reviewed to see what information they may yield that could be of benefit in the investigation," Boyett said.

SOMETHING GOOD?

If anything good comes from the school being defaced, it might come from Robert Gonzalez, the district's drug prevention coordinator.

"I have been needing to have a staff educational session on gang recognition," he said as he studied the graffiti at the entrance to the high school. "Maybe I can use this incident and pictures of this as a tool for that training."

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