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School officials are deciding what punishment three Mount Hebron High School students will receive after they were arrested in a break-in at the school, painted racist symbols inside the building and stole $5,200 in property.

The 15-year-old boys, who all attend the school, are charged as minors with second- and fourth-degree burglary, two counts of malicious destruction of property, 13 counts of theft, and defacing school property with hate messages in the break-in, which occurred Dec. 6.

One of the teens was arrested Dec. 11. The other two were arrested Monday. All were released into the custody of their parents. Howard County police declined to disclose the identity of the teens because they are minors.

Mount Hebron Principal Scott Ruehl met with Dave Bruzga, administrative director for secondary schools, last week to discuss possible disciplinary action for the three students. The school system is also attempting to determine the total loss and whether to seek restitution from the teens, according to school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

"Obviously there will be some disciplinary action taken," Caplan said. "There are a number of policies that apply here."

A possibility would be to remove the students from the school, according to Caplan.

"We make sure that in the school setting - whenever a student might be of harm to themselves and others - we do look at the placement and whether it is advisable for them to be in the school," Caplan said. "I don't know if that has been discussed at this point. Many times we discuss administrative transfers for the safety of everybody involved."

The incident took place inside a portable classroom at Mount Hebron, in the 9400 block of Old Frederick Road, at 4:14 a.m. Dec. 6, according to police, who are investigating whether anyone at the school was specifically targeted.

In addition to taking computers and other equipment, the vandals spray-painted swastikas and the letters "KKK" inside the classroom, according to police. The damage is estimated at an additional $3,000, police said.

Police were led to the students through the Mount Hebron High School resource officer, according to Sherry Llewellyn, police spokeswoman.

"We have a school resource officer assigned to each one of the high schools," Llewellyn said. "One of the benefits is that each officer knows kids in the school. They are able to gather information. That was very valuable in this case. We don't have specific details to what led to the arrest. The school resources officer did play a role."

Police are also investigating an incident where racist and obscene graffiti were spray-painted on the exterior of Hammond Middle School and a portable classroom. The crime occurred at the school in the 8100 block of Aladdin Drive in Laurel between Dec. 11 and 13, according to police.

The vandals spray-painted a swastika and a gun firing at a Star of David. In addition, an obscene image and the word "hi" with a smiling face were drawn. The monetary damage is still being determined, according to Llewellyn. Police do not have any suspects in the most recent incident.

Llewellyn does not think that the most recent crime is part of a trend.

"These cases don't appear to be related in any way," Llewellyn said. "It is not uncommon when there are acts of vandalism by young people to include these symbols. Oftentimes sadly, kids who commit this crime do not understand the severity of including these symbols."

A $300 reward is being offered for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the vandals. Anyone with information is asked to call 410-313-STOP.

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