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Wednesday, February 23, 2000



By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Chuck Carlin, a speech therapist at Hauula Elementary School,
checks over the damage that vandals did to a Macintosh computer
in teacher Ann Niblock's first grade classroom
during the holiday weekend.

School sweeps up,
gets back on road
to learning

Hauula Elementary kids
carry some emotional scars
from the burglary

By Jaymes K. Song


The profane language and graffiti has been cleared off the walls of Ann Niblock's first grade classroom, but the emotional scars are still apparent.

Sometime during the Presidents' Day weekend, vandals broke into her classroom at Hauula Elementary School, destroyed a computer, trashed the room and stole money and food which was supposed to feed children who had no breakfast. They also took a television, VCR, compact disk player and students' personal items.

Musical instruments were thrown into the bushes on the school grounds, and among the graffiti written on Niblock's room was "Hauula boys," a gang in the area.

"They suspect people around here, and that's what makes it worse," Niblock said.

Students practiced reading this morning while glancing at the destroyed computer, which they used to use every day. She described her students as saddened by the event.

"I told them it's OK to be upset. In Hauula we have a lot of beautiful, gifted children. It might be a setback now, but it won't get in the way of learning."

This is the seventh break-in at the 460-student school this year. The suspects got in by breaking through the classroom doors.

In addition to Niblock's classroom, they broke into second grade and Hawaiian immersion classrooms and the teachers' lounge.

The school is a prime target for vandals and gang activity because of its secluded location.

Every weekend custodians have to clean up beer cans and drug paraphernalia, teachers said.

"Police come, but they can't be here all the time," said Chuck Carlin, a speech therapist at the school.

Police say there are similarities to vandalism at Kailua Elementary School which also occurred over President's Day weekend. But they cannot say yet whether there is a connection.

Alarm companies and local businesses yesterday offered to replace the damaged items at Kailua Elementary School.

At Lanikai Elementary School, police recovered an iMac and Macintosh GF, two of the six computers stolen there on the President's Day weekend.

Police do not believe the theft of the $10,434 worth of computer equipment is related to the vandalism incidents.

State Department of Education figures show the number of school burglaries reported has fluctuated within the last few years.

Last school year 107 burglaries in schools were reported. There were reports of 152 in 1997-98; 66 in 1996-97, and 194 in 1995-96.

Department spokesman Greg Knudsen said the burglaries last weekend were "relatively rare occurrences, although pretty shocking."

He said burglars need to realize "they are stealing from children and hurting everyone."

Reporter Leila Fujimori also contributed to this story.

E-mail to City Desk

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