The 24 teens arrested last month in connection with the March 11 vandalism of East Paulding High School and surrounding areas could learn their legal fates this afternoon.
The teens will meet with Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan at 2 p.m. at the Paulding County Courthouse. Officials at Donovan’s office told Dallas-Hiram Patch that the media is welcome to attend. We will bring you details of the meeting later today.
It remains to be seen if the teens will be indicted under the crime they were charged with after being arrested by the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office—criminal interference with government property, a felony under Georgia Code 16-7-24. According to the state law, “A person commits the offense of interference with government property when he destroys, damages, or defaces government property.” Conviction of the crime carries a sentence of imprisonment for one to five years.
The total aftermath of the March 11 vandalism saw school buildings spray-painted to include windows; some perpetrators also made it onto the school’s roof, which was also painted. Some of the paintings across the campus, in addition to “Senior” and “2012,” also included the text “YOLO” and “Musgrove is a [expletive]”—the latter message seemingly targeting Assistant Principal Greg Musgrove. In all, school district officials said clean-up of the damage to East Paulding High was estimated at $7,500.
No official word on the school-level punishments of those alleged to be involved in the vandalism was ever released by school district officials, who said that privacy laws prevent the district from revealing how many students were punished, what punishments they received or whether students’ punishments differed. However, one student arrested in connection with the incident, Jake Zimmerman, said those involved received 10 days of out-of-school suspension followed by long-term suspension for the rest of the year, the latter of which is carried out by the Ombudsman program. The punishments are in line with those prescribed by Paulding County Schools’ student discipline policy.
Zimmerman earlier this week received an additional punishment at the school level, as Paulding School Board members voted to bar him from all extracurricular activities, including graduation. Zimmerman after the board’s decision Tuesday said the additional punishment, which he said his peers are not receiving, was retaliation for appealing the district’s original decision.
Under Board Policy JD, the students deemed to have been involved in the vandalism could have faced expulsion, as the incident likely would be classified as a “Level One” offense—defined as “[incidents] that significantly threaten the safety of students and staff, significantly disrupt the orderly school environment, and/or may result in injury or significant loss of property.”
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