Four U.S. students charged with hate crimes for plastering their Maryland school in racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic words and imagery just days before their high school graduation last year were identified by school administrators because their phones had automatically connected to the campus’ Wi-Fi network, according to reports.
As part of its series exploring hate crimes, the Washington Post on Tuesday published a feature on the vandalism, evidently intended to be a senior prank, that included details specific to how the four Glenelg High School students – Joshua Shaffer, Seth Taylor, Matthew Lipp, and Tyler Curtiss – were caught.
In order to connect to the school’s Wi-Fi network, students must log in from their phones with unique IDs that continue thereafter to “automatically connect whenever they are on campus,” according to the Post. The Howard County Times previously reported that Wi-Fi had a hand in helping identify the involved students.
Despite masking their faces with t-shirts to shield themselves from security cameras, the four teens were automatically registered as being on campus at 11:35pm on May 23, 2018, local time, the night the crimes occurred. Surveillance footage captured the four using spray paint to graffiti penises, swastikas, racist and homophobic slurs, and other images across the school’s property.
The Post reported that all told, the teens left more than 100 graffiti marks on the campus, though the Howard County Times reported the number of graffiti drawings and epithets as being more than 50, a figure also cited by the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The teens were charged with a hate crime and sentenced earlier this year to probation, community service, and consecutive weekends in jail ranging from nine to 18 weeks. According to the post, the teens were only required to serve part of their respective sentences.
All of the students reportedly spray-painted some form of hateful graffiti, whether it be homophobic, racist, or anti-Semitic. The graffiti also targeted Glenelg High Principal David Burton, who is black, with a racial slur.
“This was something that was 50 separate acts of hate, you have anti-Semitic graffiti, you have racist graffiti, racist graffiti that targeted Principal Burton by name, you have homophobic references that were made,” State’s Attorney Rich Gibson said during an April press conference, per the Howard County Times.
“This is an act of violence that rips the fabric of our community.”