Three teens have been arrested — two from Maria Carrillo High School — suspected of chopping down and vandalizing seven mature trees growing in the Maria Carrillo school quad.
Ironically, the seven trees targeted for destruction had been planted in 2004 to replace a dozen trees chopped down that spring by Maria Carrillo students, said Principal Rand Van Dyke.
In this year's case, Santa Rosa police officers arrested three 17-year-olds on suspicion of felony vandalism.
The three teens were booked into the county's Juvenile Hall, said Santa Rosa police Sgt. Lisa Banayat.
The third student attended Ridgway High School.
In a nighttime raid at the east Santa Rosa campus in late April, five cercis western red bud trees were cut down with an axe and two others were badly damaged. Trash cans also were overturned.
Students and staff arriving to school April 29 found the felled trees.
A sense of anger and loss permeated the campus, said Van Dyke.
School officials asked for students to step forward with information about who could be responsible. An email also was sent to parents.
Within two days school officials provided information to police officers. The Maria Carrillo students were arrested on campus May 1, Sgt. Banayat said.
Van Dyke wouldn't discuss what punishment his students face, citing student privacy laws. He said the case, however, remained under investigation so final decisions hadn't been made.
"From the school perspective there still are some things I need to have ironed out," said Van Dyke.
In the 2004 case, police arrested five Maria Carrillo seniors, three males and two females. They were suspected of cutting down a dozen flowering pear trees, which had grown to 30 feet in the school quad.
School officials then wouldn't say whether they'd been expelled, but news reports indicated the students weren't allowed to stay on campus.
Those seniors also weren't allowed to participate in their graduation ceremony. News reports in 2004 indicated the acts might have been a senior prank.
Van Dyke Tuesday declined to discuss possible motivation of this year's vandalism. But he said some students have expressed dismay at the thought this could have been a senior prank.
"If the motivation of the involved students was that they thought this was a prank, I think we're missing the definition of what a prank is," Van Dyke said.
"Pranks don't involve hurting somebody...or something, there's no lasting damage and can easily be cleaned up. A prank isn't something that destroys something," he said.
School officials have been attempting to determine the value of the seven trees. One quote from a local nursery was $400 to replace a tree the size of one of the red buds, Van Dyke said.
The trees will be replaced with other trees, he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.