HIGHLAND HIGH STUDENT ARRESTED IN SCHOOL FIRE, TAGGING 2 OTHERS SOUGHT; CAMPUS DAMAGE SET AT $90,000.
PALMDALE -- One Highland High School student was taken into custody Tuesday and two more were being sought on suspicion of spray-painting graffiti and setting a fire that caused $90,000 in damage to the campus.
Vandals who got onto the campus early Tuesday spray-painted walls, doors, windows and school vehicles with the name of their tagging crew as well as their nicknames, which helped school officials link them to the crime.
The 16-year-old student in custody confessed after he was turned in by his mother, who had brought him to school tardy and recognized a moniker in the graffiti, sheriff's deputies said.
``She came to school and saw the tagging and knew it was his. She saw his nickname,'' Deputy Chris Deaville said.
Of the two others being sought, one is a current student and one had been suspended from Highland, Deaville said.
The vandals lit trash cans on fire, which spread to a snack bar room. The fire knocked out power to a building next to the snack bar that houses administrative staffers for the special-education program.
A neighbor reported the fire before 5 a.m., said Kenny Bryant, the school's security director.
Several school vehicles were scrawled on, including vans and a maintenance truck. One window of a van was broken, and an employee's car in the auto shop also was tagged, Bryant said.
The incident was bad timing for the 3,500-student school, which Tuesday hosted a team of 40 administrators from other schools, who were there to help Highland's staff improve student learning and achievement.
Principal Stacy Bryant said she was approached by students before classes who began inquiring whether they could help clean up the graffiti.
``Before the bell rang for first period I had kids come up to me and say, `We want to help. This is not what we do. This isn't what Highland students do,''' said Stacy Bryant, no relation to Kenny Bryant.
``Our kids respect the school. It's like a safe zone,'' Stacy Bryant said. ``With the influx of students from other places, we've got a different element coming.''
Kenny Bryant said the suspects were identified quickly because the school keeps on file examples of tagging found on notebooks or backpacks that have been confiscated.
``Within a half-hour, we identified one of the taggings as belonging to an individual who is part of the crew,'' Kenny Bryant said. ``If no one knows who you are, you don't get the glory and fame for what you did.''
(1 -- color) Antelope Valley Union High School District painter Ralph Boxton cleans graffiti from the Highland High School math building that was put there by vandals.
(2 -- color) Painter Mike Verdaasdonk cleans graffiti from a Highland High School classroom door. Damage to the campus from a fire and tagging was estimated at $90,000.
(3) Highland High School photography class members take pictures of a barrel set afire by vandals.
Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer