Three juveniles and their parents were issued July court summons in connection to vandalizing Vidalia Junior High on Saturday, June 25.
The pre-teen looters caused extensive damage to the building and its contents, and estimated damage could be upwards of $200,000 with costs still coming in.
In response to the matter, Concordia Parish School Board members declared an emergency situation on Monday afternoon.
“This was one of the worse cases of vandalism I have ever seen,” said Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill. “This is pretty bad.”
According to Merrill, three juveniles vandalized the junior high on two different occasions during the day on June 26. A school worker discovered the damage and through the building’s video surveillance, the juveniles were soon identified.
During the meeting, School Board members developed a list of numerous items damaged during the break-in. Some items listed were computers, projectors, printers, smart boards and cameras. The list is likely to grow as items come in from teachers. The insurance company has also been contacted.
Additionally, windows and doors were damaged along with floors.
School Board member Raymond Riley said the juveniles did not destroy but rather wrecked the school.
“Our main thing is, it is more a big mess than destruction,” said School Board member Raymond Riley. “These are 10- and 11-year-olds, so they didn’t have sense enough to know how to really destroy what they were messing up.”
A group of volunteers along with teachers and school personnel converged on Vidalia Junior High School this week to begin cleanup efforts. Volunteers who actually went into the school told a story that contradicted Riley’s.
Those helping in the cleanup efforts said the vandals “purposely poured water” into ChromeBook carts that were filled with computers. Early estimates were 120 ChromeBooks had water damage.
Teachers and volunteers also found broke classroom TVs, destroyed desktop computer monitors, smashed printers, ruined white boards and overhead projectors.
Volunteers and teachers on site said damaged IT equipment will eventually need replacing.
In Monday’s meeting, Riley went on to say Vidalia Junior High’s computers should be upgraded and teachers who incurred expenses due to the break-ins should be compensated.
“Let’s get the computers that we need to upgrade that school,” Riley said. “And, the teachers can get in there and figure out what they can salvage. It is hard that they spent their own personal money and now they are going to have to spend it again. Personally, I think we should help in recouping what they have already spent.”
Lilliam Franklin, Concordia Parish’s director of federal programs, wanted to investigate further if the School Board could give Title I funds to a single school instead of a districtwide disbursement.
“From a federal program standpoint, when you speak of replacing all the damage and used technology, there is federal guidance that I have to do some investigation on as to how the district Title I funds can replace any of those items due to compliance,” Franklin said. “It may not be a quick turnaround until I get some directions from the state department. I want to get specifics from the federal programs director as to is there an emergency declaration that drives what we can or can’t do for that individual school.”
Title I is a federal funding stream supplementing how much money each state allocates for schools. According to the U.S Department of Education, Title I was created “to ensure economically disadvantaged children receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, by helping to close academic achievement gaps.”
Title I funds should directly support activities that support student achievement, support staff professional development, and/or increase the participation of parents in school activities or assist parents to support student achievement, according to louisianabelieves.com.
As the juveniles and their parents wait for their day in court, classroom cleanup is ongoing at Vidalia Junior High, an inventory list of damaged goods grows and School Board members hope they are able to replace damaged goods.
“The technology is very hard to come by these days,” said School Board President Fred Butcher.