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5 Students Suspended in Vandalism of Rival School : Education: Girls from Ventura High splashed paint around Buena campus in annual football prank. Administrators say cleanup is too costly.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Five Ventura High School honor students were suspended Thursday for their role in vandalizing the campus of rival Buena High, an annual pre-football-game prank that officials said is proving costly to clean up.

The students--all senior girls--admitted to school officials that they splashed cans of bright yellow paint across the Buena High campus Wednesday night, then scampered through it barefoot, leaving prints on walkways and a pep-rally stand.

But the girls, including one varsity cheerleader who will not be allowed to attend tonight’s football game, told school officials they never meant serious harm.

“Their understanding was that it was water-based paint. They thought you could just hose it off,” said Assistant Principal Larry Koontz of Ventura High. “I agree their intentions were honorable and spirited, but the outcome was definitely different.”

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Koontz said some of the girls were identified by a Ventura High janitor who stopped by the Buena campus Wednesday night on the hunch there might be trouble.

The girls were questioned Thursday and will be suspended for three days, beginning today. They also will have to pay a portion of the cleanup costs.

“I haven’t seen that many tears in a long time,” Koontz said. “I think they’re most upset about not being able to go to the game.”

The footprints were only a small part of the mess created on both high school campuses Wednesday night, though school officials shrugged off the incident as a tradition tied to the Buena-Ventura football game.

“To an extent, it’s normal kid behavior that just goes a little too far,” said Ventura High Principal Hank Robertson. “I don’t see that it’s a big deal.”

At Buena, the damage included black graffiti scrawled on the exterior of the gym, yellow paint on lockers and a pay phone, raw eggs tossed against buildings and whipping cream smeared on the handball courts. Dog food was dumped near the school sign, a reference to Buena’s mascot, the bulldog.

The vandalism at Ventura was limited to streams of toilet paper, splattered eggs and the letters “BHS” burned into the grass of the football field. Last year, however, the midtown campus took the brunt of the damage when students scrawled graffiti across the campus.

It will cost about $1,100 to clean up both campuses and remove the paint and graffiti from Buena, district officials said.

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On Thursday, maintenance workers sandblasted the water-based paint off the ground in the quad area and covered the black graffiti on the gym wall with oil enamel, which will be painted over later.

The three-man crew is expected to finish the job today.

After surveying the damage on his campus, Buena Principal Jaime Castellanos echoed Robertson’s comments, saying the cost was what concerned him most.

“It was a prank that went a little overboard,” he said. “My only concern was the amount of the cost it was going to take to repair it.”

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The five suspended students said the only thing they did on the Buena campus was splash the yellow paint. School officials said they are still searching for other culprits.

“Evidently, there were maybe several hundred, maybe 100, kids on campus at both schools” on Wednesday night, Koontz said.

During a midday break at Buena High, students offered mixed reactions to the graffiti, most of which had already been covered with posters or blue paint.

“I think they went too far with the paint,” said Mike Wickham, 17, a varsity football player.

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Jannine Bourbonnais, 15, a cheerleader, said the incident will intensify the long-running Buena-Ventura rivalry. “They’re asking for a lot of it back,” she said.

FYI

Tonight’s varsity football game between Ventura and Buena high schools begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Ventura High School stadium, 2155 E. Main St. Tickets can be purchased at the gate for $5.


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