A senior prank that involved painting "whites only" on public school facilities saw five teenagers arrested in Texas Wednesday on state felony charges for causing an estimated $20,000 in damage to school property. The students may also face hate crime charges over the graffiti at James Martin High School in Arlington.
Lt. Chris Cook, a police spokesman, told the Star-Telegram the graffiti contained “several disturbing racial and gender overtones.” The students painted “whites only” above a water fountain and “trans only” on a men’s bathroom door.
“The hate crime statute will be presented to a grand jury,” Cook said. “Since they’re felonies, there will have to be a hearing for indictment.”
Arlington High students Christian Joeckel, Ryan Westbrook, Hayden Honolka, Cameron Bodenstab, and Ethan Sigmond were arrested after they sprayed the graffiti at James Martin, a rival public school. Joeckel, Westbrook, and Honolka are all 17 years old and played on the school's football team, while Bodenstab and Sigmond are 18 years old, USA Today reported. Bodenstab and Sigmond said they painted the school's jungle gym green, which is their school's color.
“For them to do something like that to another school is very disrespectful and immature,” said student Kirstin Pham. “I feel like were all miniature adults and should be treating each other as such.”
— The Root (@TheRoot) May 31, 2016
The students confessed to writing the graffiti, Cook said. “They were pretty remorseful. I don’t think they gave a lot of thought to the ramifications. Unfortunately, you’re held accountable for and there’s consequences when you engage in this sort of behavior,” Cook told local reporters.
Texas has seen a number of disturbing racial incidents in recent months. In April, black protesters chanted "black power" and confronted a group of white protesters demonstrating against a mosque in Dallas. In May, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued a cemetery in Normanna over a "whites only policy." The city of Irving made global headlines in September after a 14-year-old boy, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to his high school that authorities suspected was a bomb. In May 2015, the city of Garland saw police kill two Islamic extremist gunmen who planned to attack a meeting where people had gathered to view cartoons that made fun of the Prophet Muhammad.