BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Four students were charged with hate crimes after "hateful and sickening" graffiti was found Thursday morning at a Maryland high school.
The graffiti, that was described as anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT and racist, was found spray-painted on the walls and sidewalks of Glenelg High School in Howard County overnight.
Three of the students, Seth Taylor, 18, of Mustang Path in Ellicott City; Tyler Curtiss, 18, of Rivercrest Court in Brookeville; and Joshua Shaffer, 18, of Watkins Way in Mt. Airy, were taken into custody at the school this morning. Matthew Lipp, 18, of Daisy Road in Woodbine was picked up by police at his home.
All four were charged with multiple counts of "destruction of property based on race, color, religious belief, sexual orientation, or national origin." It carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.
Howard County Public School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano said the incident is "a hate crime against so many of our communities and goes completely against the values we share as a community."
"We denounce any type of hate," Martirano said at a press conference Thursday.
The police chief said staff contacted the school resource officer after finding the slurs. The SRO called Howard County Police to help investigate. They reviewed video and identified students leading to three arrests. Paint cans were also found in the nearby woods.
When Martirano was asked whether it could be described as a senior prank, he said, "that is beyond belief. That falls into a category of hate that would never be perceived as a prank."
The superintendent said the school's African-American principal David Burton was a target of some of the racist graffiti. It's Burton's last year at the school.
"I've never seen this amount of graffiti at one school," Martirano said, discussing the cleanup. "I'm extremely disturbed by what I saw today."
Staff started removing the graffiti almost immediately, but not before students saw what was done to their school.
The students and staff were shocked to see the graffiti during what should have been a celebratory day -- graduation awards assembly and the girls' lacrosse team at the school becoming state champions.
"I was definitely disgusted. I don't ever want to see this happen again," student Jeremy Davis said.
"I'm asking young people to think," Martirano said. "Think before you post something."
He also asked parents to take responsibility, "Get involved with your child's social media. Be the parents you're expected to be as the primary teacher."
Dr. Martirano released the following statement:
I was deeply troubled and disheartened to have learned this morning that Glenelg High School was vandalized overnight with graffiti that is hateful and sickening. Howard County Police were immediately notified and an investigation is underway. Make no mistake, this is a hate crime against so many of our communities and goes completely against the values we share as a community. It is completely unacceptable and actions of this nature will not be tolerated in Howard County. I know that many students and staff were troubled upon arriving at school this morning and we are providing the necessary supports for anybody who needs them. Today at noon, I will meet with members of the media to help amplify these words and denounce the actions that took place overnight at Glenelg High School. I ask all of Howard County today to join me in an effort to help our community heal. Be assured that individuals responsible for these acts will be held accountable.
Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman released issued the following statement about the graffiti at Glenelg High School:
"This morning the Glenelg High School community was met with hateful and shocking graffiti painted overnight on school grounds. On what should be a joyous day, when parents and students assemble to celebrate the senior class for its many accomplishments, they were instead confronted with an appalling display of bigotry defacing their school.
I am heartbroken, perhaps even more so because this school is in my own backyard, it is where my four children attended high school and where my oldest daughter works as a teacher. Since I was a child, our family, friends and neighbors have embraced the values of tolerance, respect and inclusion. We have worked hard to teach our children these values. We will not accept any less in our community and must speak and act against this display of cruelty and hatred in the strongest terms possible.
We are confident our law enforcement officers will uncover the individual or individuals who committed this hate crime and will take the appropriate legal action. Beyond that, we must continue to address the underlying issues that would cause anyone to want to hurt others in this manner. We will conduct varied activities through our OneHoward initiative to promote respect and ask that we all reach out to others to better understand and value what may be perceived as differences on the surface. In reality, we know that we all have so much more in common than we do that is different.
I know the sentiments expressed in this terrible graffiti are extremely unsettling to our residents. But we cannot let those who promote hate destroy our important year-end traditions and must remind ourselves that this type of intolerant behavior is the work of a small number of hateful individuals. They do not represent our shared beliefs as a community. They do not represent our shared values in Howard County. We will not tolerate it and will stand together in condemning this behavior."
All four suspects were booked at the Howard County Detention Center.
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