Three Salem High School students have been suspended after they were charged Nov. 21 with vandalizing the school and setting it on fire. The three are accused of spray painting "Highland Rules" on stage curtains in the cafeteria.
One 13-year-old and two 15-year-old students, all males, have been charged with second-degree criminal mischief and commercial burglary, both felonies. The trio allegedly broke into Salem High School Nov. 14.
A copier machine was damaged when the vandals put ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise into the machine.
The vandals took fire extinguishers and sprayed the chemicals into the school's air vents. They threw food around the kitchen and tore banners from the walls. And they made a mess in the teacher's lounge by throwing food and condiments on the furniture.
School employees and officials spent the following day cleaning up the mess, Superintendent Bob Foster said.
Salem Police Chief Albert Roork said Salem High School Principal Ken Rich provided information about the crime which gave authorities a good starting place.
Rich said other students were very helpful in solving the crime.
Two of the students turned themselves in at the sheriff's department, Roork said.
One of the accused, a straight A student, told authorities he had unlocked the window in a classroom before leaving school so they could gain entry into the building, Roork said.
Roork said he thinks the students painted "Highland Rules" on the drapes to throw authorities off track, but the accused denied that and told him they painted it on the curtains because Highland is a school rival.
The accused have been placed on house arrest and released to their parents pending a court date of Jan. 21 before Juvenile Judge Steve Choate.
Foster said damages are higher than first estimated because the curtains cannot be salvaged; he estimated a $2,000 replacement cost. The bill to repair the copier machine is between $200 and $300.
Authorities did not pursue arson charges because the fire was extinguished before it caused damage to the school, Roork said.
The three have been suspended from school until Dec. 9, Rich said.
"The boys were very cooperative with us. We appreciate the effort and cooperation the school put forth in resolving this," Roork said.