South City falls victim to vandalism 

Students who caused $8,000 worth of damage by spray-painting racist and anti-gay remarks throughout campus at South San Francisco High School were in it for the "shock value," police say.

One student is in custody for felony vandalism in a graffiti attack that occurred Sunday night, just two days before students would take part in today’s Day of Silence. During today’s protest, which was scheduled before the vandalism, students stay quiet all day to show solidarity against harassment and bullying of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Despite the timing, police said the breadth of insults spray-painted across campus indicated that the culprits were not targeting any group in particular.

"They made sure they offended everybody," said South City Cpl. Ken Hancock.

One student is in custody and at least one other student is believed to be involved, Hancock said.

"The motive was shock value," he said. "When you offend everybody, you’re not really singling anybody out."

Because of the low level of sophistication and no specific group being targeted, police are not looking at any hate-crime charges yet, Hancock said.

A maintenance worker discovered the graffiti — a collection of symbols, drawings and words, said Hancock — at approximately 7 a.m. Monday morning, photographed the damage and then began cleaning it up, Hancock said. Most of the paint was cleaned up before students arrived for classes at 8 a.m.

"The kids were shocked and, for the most part, disturbed" by what they saw, Principal Michael Coyne said. He said the student in custody was previously not a problem student.

Coyne released a memo for teachers to read to their classes, saying that the weekend's actions were the antithesis of what is taught at South San Francisco High School.

Stacy Ball-Weaver said her son, a sophomore at the school, told her that the graffiti was anti-gay and racist and had some Biblical passages in it. The incident did not make her feel uncomfortable in the community andshe did not have any second thoughts about letting her kids stay out after dark, she added.

Her son tells her that the community has an "ugly element" to it, but she still felt safe, she said.

"It’s still our community. It’s probably just teenagers being teenagers," Ball-Weaver said.

In an unrelated concern about graffiti, at Aragon High School in San Mateo, officials are considering the installation of video cameras to monitor hard-to-view areas around school grounds. The San Mateo Union High School District board will consider the cameras at its Thursday meeting.

dsmith@examiner.com

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