Pacifica school endures vandalism spree 

A bomb threat, fire, vandalism and offensive graffiti tied up Pacifica school officials, firefighters and police officials Tuesday, just hours before the start of the school day.

Firefighters responding to a 12:27 a.m. alarm at Oceana High School found the school’s weight room full of smoke from a small fire on a pile of debris, including workout mats.

After the fire was contained, authorities discovered hate speech painted on a nearby wall and a broken window that enabled the vandals to enter the weight room.

According to Pacifica Police Sgt. Dave Bertini, the nearby graffiti also contained a bomb threat against the school. By 4 a.m., the school had been completely swept by county bomb-sniffing dogs and bomb crews, and the campus was declared safe for students.

"It’s disappointing that something like this would happen, because it’s so opposite to what the culture of the school is, because the school puts such focus on issues of tolerance and respect. To have something like this is such a violation," said Jefferson Union High School District Superintendent Mike Crilly.

In addition to the bomb threat, the graffiti contained swastikas, white supremacy messages and homophobic slurs.

Oceana Principal Samuel Butscher said the school already was on a heightened alert level following the anniversary of the Columbine shootings, the Virginia Tech attacks and other localincidents.

On April 15, South San Francisco High School was hit with homophobic graffiti and a student was in custody in connection with the vandalism. And the San Mateo Union High School district recently approved the installation of security cameras at Aragon High School to cut down on graffiti and vandalism.

Oceana administrators held an emergency faculty meeting Tuesday morning to encourage teachers to give their students a chance to speak about the vandalism in classes.

"If students want to stop and talk about this, they should be able to have that conversation," Butscher said. "We need to listen to what kids are saying. It’s their school."

That part of campus — north of the gym, hidden from view from surrounding homes and streets — has been targeted for vandalism and other unlawful activities over the years, said Crilly, who taught at the school in the ’70s.

Aside from smoke damage in the weight room and the adjacent women’s locker room, there was no significant damage to the structure.

Bertini said the investigation is still ongoing. Anyone with information should call the Pacifica Police Department at (650) 738-7314. There is also a $1,000 reward from the Silent Witness program for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crime.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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