The Sierra Vista Unified School District governing board voted in an executive session on March 2 to appoint a hearing officer for the student expulsion matter relating to the Huachuca Mountain Elementary School vandalism incident of Jan. 16.
The board has not voted yet whether or not to expel the two students who vandalized the school.
“The hearing officer will review and examine all the available evidence regarding the incident and provide an adjudication recommendation to the Governing Board, who will decide to accept, reject or modify the recommendation,” said SVUSD Public Information Officer Valerie Weller in an email.
Sierra Vista Police Sgt. Brian Sebastian said the two students who vandalized the school are 10 and 12 years old and haven’t revealed their motives for damaging school property.
Sebastian said the students were charged with third-degree burglary and aggravated criminal damage and are being charged as juveniles.
“The hearing officer appointment is to handle the student (expulsion) proceedings,” said Weller. “The courts is handling the criminal aspects of the case, which the district has been cooperating with the court regarding information related to the incident.”
Weller said the district is coordinating with the hearing officer to schedule a hearing date.
“The district will handle the student discipline matters and will be based on current policies concerning student conduct and discipline as well as the facts of the incident,” said Weller.
Sebastian and SVPD Detective John Papatrefon said the students damaged the school’s windows, doors and the fire suppression system.
Papatrefon said the total cost of damages will be more than $100,000 due to extensive damage to the fire system.
“Now that the system is damaged, it has to be completely replaced,” said Papatrefon, noting replacement of the fire suppression system will cost $75,000.
Weller said this estimate will likely change based on other requirements such as asbestos testing of the area where the new fire control panel will be installed.
Papatrefon said the incident began on Jan. 15, a Friday evening, when the two students broke into the school at 7:30 p.m. by breaking windows in doors on the side of the school.
Papatrefon said the students broke two surveillance cameras but one remained functional in the school office and has a timestamp of their entrance.
Papatrefon said the pair was found by SVPD on Saturday afternoon in a classroom.
He said the boys had been throwing rocks at the school’s windows a week prior to Jan. 16.
Sebastian said neither boy had a prior record of police interaction.
“As of right now, the case is in the hands of the County Attorney’s office,” said Sebastian.
The Cochise County Attorney Office said the juveniles are scheduled for an advisory hearing on April 5.
Moving forward, Weller said the district is taking preventative measures, including updating the school’s alarm system and reviewing security procedures.
“The district is in the process of upgrading alarm systems where required as well as reviewing security measures and procedures at schools and other district locations,” she said.