WASHINGTON — Four high school students in Howard County, Maryland, have been accused of spray-painting hate-based graffiti at their high school Thursday morning.
The four teenagers — Seth Taylor, of Ellicott City; Tyler Curtiss, of Brookeville; Joshua Shaffer, of Mt. Airy, and Mathew Lipp, of Woodbine — are students at Glenelg High School. They’re all 18 years old. Lipp was taken into custody at home; the other three, at the school.
The Howard County police said in a statement that school officials “found racial, anti-[Semitic] and anti-LGBTQ slurs spray-painted at the school” Thursday morning. They added that one of the slurs was directed at principal David Burton, but did not specify what the graffiti said.
The police said in the statement that workers at the school found the graffiti and got in touch with the school resource officer, who recognized the four from security video that showed them spray-painting “at various locations.”
At a Thursday news conference attended by county officials and representatives of many faiths, Dr. Michael Martirano, the superintendent of the Howard County Public Schools, said the graffiti was widespread, on sidewalks, trash cans, bricks and out-buildings. As for the graffiti’s content, he said, “No groups seemed to be spared.”
The four students have been charged with multiple counts of “destruction of property based on race, color, religious belief, sexual orientation, or national origin,” the police said. The maximum penalty is three years in prison.
Burton said in a statement, “I am so proud to be the principal of Glenelg High School and the despicable acts of a few do not change my feelings about the great things our students and staff accomplish on a daily basis.” He thanked the workers who erased the graffiti, reminded parents that counselors were available if their children needed them and noted that the school held its senior awards ceremony Thursday morning and senior picnic this afternoon, as scheduled.
Martirano said that in addition to the criminal charges, he would “hold people accountable … up to the level of expulsion. And those cases will be directly given to me.”
Rev. Dr. Robert Turner, the senior pastor at St. John Baptist Church said at the news conference, “This is not the first time our county has experience hate crimes … but our coming together today is an illustration that there’s work to do.” He added, however, that leaders from all races and faiths would “come together.”
County Executive Alan Kittleman, whose daughter teaches at Glenelg, said, “I’m angry. This is our school. All four of our daughters went there. … That’s where I live. I could walk to this school. We can’t have this happen in Howard County.”
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