Skyview High was the target of vandals who spray-painted the building Thursday night or Friday morning with cryptic black lettering and symbols that included obscenities and references to violence.
Three outside brick walls of the gym were nearly covered, and vandals tagged second-floor windows, marked a sidewalk and painted a car left overnight in the parking lot. Lettering spanned a swath that measured an arm's length overhead to ground level.
By noon Friday, most of the graffiti had been removed or covered by Billings School District maintenance crews. Workers said the paint was easy to remove using a strong solvent and a pressure washer.
The Billings Police Department is investigating the incident and took photos and sketches for further analysis.
According to Sgt. R.D. Harper, the damage is estimated at more than $3,000, which makes the crime felony criminal mischief. If convicted, the vandal or vandals could be fined up to $50,000 and spend up to 10 years in prison. Until further analysis of the graffiti is done, it is unknown if the symbols are connected to gang activity, Harper said.
A surveillance camera on the building is trained on the entrance and parking area near one of the painted walls, but the camera has not been operational since the mid-1990s, said Skyview Principal Bob Whalen.
Monday night, the Billings School District 2 board approved the purchase and installation of a camera surveillance system that will monitor all the hallways and entrances to the school as well as the parking lot. The $504,500 system should be operational by September.
The area where the graffiti was written is obscured from the streets running to the south and west of the school, Whalen said.
"It's really a blind area there, so it will be nice to get those cameras in and functional," he said.
The school already has a security alarm system to detect break-ins. Security has been a concern of the Skyview High School Parent Advisory Committee, which lobbied the school board for the installation of a video surveillance system. Both Senior and West high schools have video surveillance systems that were installed during the past decade.
Whalen said the last time Skyview was vandalized was in 2002 when several windows were broken.
Contact Laura Tode at email@example.com or 657-1392.