14, 15-year-olds arrested for vandalizing special needs playground



Posted on February 23, 2011 at 12:03 AM

NEAR MANDEVILLE, LA - St. Tammany Deputies arrested two teenagers for vandalizing a special needs playground near Mandeville.

The playground is one of two KidSense Playgrounds, sensory yards built for special needs children.

The vandalism happened at the KidSense Playground on the campuses of Lake Harbor Middle and Magnola Trace Elementary Schools near Mandeville on Saturday, February 12.

Deputies arrested a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, and charged them with Criminal Damage to Property.

Because the suspects are juveniles, investigators cannot release any more information about them.

"They were, from what we're hearing, good students academically, "Captain George Bonnett of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Department said. "We don't have any history with them, they just made some bad decisions."

Bonnett credited the camera system at the school for helping secure quick arrests.

The entire incident was recorded, and according to Captain Bonnett, once the teenagers saw themselves on the surveillance footage, they admitted to what they had done.

The damage was estimated around $5,000, but by Wednesday, the KidSense Playground was cleaned up, and showed little lasting effects from the vandalism.

"You can't really see the force with which the equipment was hit," LeAnne Cantrell said. "There were pulverized, exploded pieces of cinderblock all over the playground."

LeAnne Cantrell is the driving force behind the two KidSense Playgrounds.

Both playgrounds were completely funded through private donations, built to help special needs kids overcome what's known as sensory overload.

"It's something that's been shown to help kids with autism and kids with ADHD go through their stations two or three times a day," LeAnne Cantrell said, "and go back inside with proven, better focus for their school work."

LeAnne Cantrell said, it's a testiment to the durability of the equipment that it withstood the attack. She also praised the Sheriff's Department for making arrests so quickly.

Captain Bonnett said, the two teenagers gave no reason for why they vandalized the special needs playground because, according to Sheriff Bonnett, "because there is no good reason."