Two of the four Glenelg High School students charged with spray painting slurs on school property made court appearances on Thursday.
19-year-old's Joshua Shaffer and Seth Taylor appeared before a Howard County judge for their hearing at 8:30 a.m. There, both Taylor and Shaffer pleaded guilty to a single count of defacing property at Glenelg High School.
Taylor also pleaded guilty to exhibiting animosity against a group because of their race and color, religious beliefs and sexual orientation, and Shaffer pleaded guilty to exhibiting animosity against a person because of his race, color.
The students are accused of spray-painting derogatory slurs for African Americans, Jews and homosexuals, the letters KKK, and a number of swastikas on the school. The graffiti was discovered three house before an awards ceremony for graduating seniors on May 24.
Some of the slurs were even directly targeted to the Principal, David Burton, who is an African American. It was later discovered via video surveillance that Shaffer was the one who wrote the racial slurs about Burton.
"Sidewalks, trash cans, bricks, outbuildings, everything that could possibly be available with spray paint," said Howard County Public School System interim superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano.
In his 30+ years as an educator, Martirano said he's never seen this amount of graffiti at one school.
The state is now recommending for Taylor 9 weekends in jail, 150 hours of community service, attendance at a cultural awareness/sensitivity class, and restitution for damages plus fines and court costs. For Shaffer the state is also suggesting the same punishments, but they recommend 18 weekends in jail.
In court it was revealed the four students were caught on surveillance cameras going to the school around 11:30 p.m. on March 23, wearing masks and hoods, holding paint cans and painting the sidewalk, pavement, signs and walls. In addition to being caught on camera, Howard County Public Schools' IT team was able to see that all four students had auto-connected to the school's WiFi during the same time they were caught on camera.
While the videos do not cover the entire school campus, it was able to capture some of the specific graffiti each student drew.
- Tyler Curtiss - used a blue spray paint drew “seniors” and a swastika
- Joshua Shaffer – drew at least 2 swastikas, slurs against principal
- Seth Taylor – drew a “KKK” and swastika on the trash can
- Matthew Lipp – wrote several slurs against African Americans, homosexuals.
When school officials pulled three of the students to ask them about their involvement, Seth Taylor was the only one to immediately admit to spray painting the school. He said all four of them were planning on doing a senior prank, so they got the spray paint from Lipp's garage and drove to the school. He said the others started to write racist messages, and he didn't want to be the only one not spraying something hurtful, so he drew a swastika and KKK.
Tyler Curitss later admitted to writing everything in the blue spray paint on the sidewalk, but denied doing any "hate stuff", but admitted to using a swastika. He said he did not mean to offend anyone with what he wrote.
The overall cost to repair the damage from all of the graffiti ended up being $2,079.
Taylor will be officially sentenced on March 22, and Shaffer will be sentenced on March 8.
Trials have been scheduled for the two other students, Tyler Curtiss and Matthew Lipp. Curtiss's trial is expected to start next month and Lipp's is scheduled for February.