UPDATE: Police Say Vandalism At Mosque, School Linked

Graphic Images, Slurs Also Painted On Private Christian School

Posted: September 15, 2012

Jon Johnson works to clean spray paint off a wall at the Redeemer Classical School in Keezletown on Saturday. Vandals painted vulgar graffiti and racial slurs on the private Christian school. The vandalism was discovered by a teacher early Saturday, less than a day after officials with the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley in Harrisonburg reported a similar defacement of their mosque on Country Club Road. Photo by Stephen Mitchell / DN-R.
HARRISONBURG — Vandalism of a local Christian school between 6 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday is linked to the defacing of the city's only mosque, Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said Saturday.
 
Redeemer Classical School officials contacted the sheriff's office shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday when fifth-grade teacher Jane Fowler found blue-and-red spray-paintings of graphic images, vulgar language and racial slurs when she walked up to the private Christian school to tutor a young student.


The sheriff's office is cooperating with the Harrisonburg Police Department to investigate the two incidents. The incident at
the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley mosque on Country Club Road was discovered Friday afternoon.

Officers are looking into "some potential [leads]," according to Hutcheson, although no arrests have been made. Police believe the two incidents are linked because of the content of the paintings and the manner in which the incidents played out.
 
Vandals used the same coloring and content in the graffiti at Redeemer as what had been found at the mosque. The graffiti
at the Keezletown school was painted on windows along the right side of the main building and on a nearby white trailer used as a library and classroom.

Redeemer Classical, which serves kindergarten through eighth grades, has been leasing the building at 1688 Indian Trail Road, the old Keezletown Elementary School, since 2007.

Brian Augustine, chair of the school’s six-member board of directors, said the school has always felt fully supported by the community and never endured a similar crime. Earlier this year, several items, such as a computer and portable projector, were stolen from the school, but he doesn’t believe that crime is related to the vandalism.  
 
School officials were able to clean off most of the images and words from the windows, which lined the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, but they will likely have to repaint the trailer where it had been defaced, Augustine said. 
 
“By God’s grace, we happened to have someone here today,” Augustine said, noting that normally no one comes in the building on Saturdays.
 
If Fowler wouldn’t have shown up Saturday, many of the school’s 76 students would’ve seen the images and profanity Monday morning, he said.
 
As standard reporting protocol for any crime that could be considered a hate crime, police have informed the FBI.
 
"We're going to keep them in the loop, but we're looking at it on a local perspective," Hutcheson said.
.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com


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