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Vandals cover Hudson Middle School with obscene graffiti

HUDSON — Hudson Middle School's custodians headed home for the evening at 11 p.m. Thursday. The plant manager arrived for work at 5:15 a.m. Friday.

Some time in between, vandals covered the school walls, windows, sidewalks, light poles, signs and more with spray-painted swastikas, obscenities, depictions of genitals and other graffiti.

"It's literally every wall on the outside of the school," principal Steve Van Gorden said as school district work crews painted over the words and symbols. "We have a great school and a great community. This is kind of like a family member getting slapped in the face."

Nearby Northwest Elementary and Hudson High, which share the same campus, experienced some minor graffiti. But the middle school bore the brunt, assistant superintendent David Scanga said.

"At the elementary and the high, it wasn't that bad," Scanga said, adding that the graffiti at Northwest was gone before the first students arrived, and at the high school it was in the back where few students go. "The middle school was the worst, because basically it was everywhere."

While Pasco sheriff's deputies gathered clues and took pictures, Van Gorden went onto the school's morning newscast to tell the student body just how upset he was with what happened. He offered a $100 reward to anyone who could bring information leading to the capture of the culprits.

"I asked them for their help," Van Gorden said. "No sooner than I got off the news, there were kids coming down" to his office to report what they had heard or knew.

Most of the students have pride in their school, he said, and wanted to see whoever defaced the campus be punished.

No arrests had been made as of Friday afternoon.

"We're actively investigating that," Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said.

Pasco schools see their share of graffiti from time to time. But the district paint crew hasn't been called out for a cleanup in more than a year — usually custodians can handle the small amounts that crop up.

This time, six workers who would have been doing jobs at Calusa Elementary and Ridgewood High were called to the scene.

They worked under the direction of senior maintenance crew chief Mark Fox, who has worked in the maintenance department for 15 years.

"This is probably the worst one I have seen," said Fox, who estimated the cleanup cost at about $2,500. "It was just widespread."

Times staff writer Molly Moorhead contributed to this report. Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For education news, visit blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Vandals cover Hudson Middle School with obscene graffiti 12/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 1:31pm]
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