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Arson Charges Pending For Two Juveniles Who Torched Burlington County School Play Set

By Robin Rieger

DELANCO, N.J. (CBS) — Recess and after school playtime at the M. Joan Pearson Elementary School in Delanco has been somewhat subdued this week. In a word, many kindergarten thru 5th grade students are:

“Sad,” says Lauren Hoffman, a 4th grader.

That’s because one of two play-sets on school property is surrounded by yellow caution tape, instead of children after it burned Sunday afternoon.

“I find this disturbing, that someone would do this to a child’s playground. This is where they come to play together, to hangout, to socialize,” says Principal and Superintendent Barbara Behnke.

Police say arson charges are pending against two juveniles, now charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief. One is from Yardley and the other is from Delanco.

“If they made a bad choice or it is was an accident, whatever happened, it’s a shame,” says parent Tracey Hamlin.

Erin McFadden says she could see the fire from her backyard.

“It was smoke and flames on the ground, this is started going up,” says McFadden.

She says before the fire started, she saw older kids hanging out by the set.

“It just looked like they were all in a circle. I don’t know if they were smoking a cigarette or anything,” she says.

The Parent Teacher Organization says the school board and a state grant funded the equipment eight years ago that cost about $100,000. It had to meet state standards; and proud parents raised $5,000 for its installation.

“The kids loved it, they loved to stay after school and play. It was an achievement,” says Hamlin.

“It’s devastating because we don’t have funds to give them to put the playground back on,” says Parent Sue Hoffman, who along with Hamlin, serves on the Parent Teacher Organization.

All are hoping insurance covers what they’ve lost.

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  • anon513

    This is truly sad that people would do something like this. What did little kids ever do to them to have them do something like this? NOTHING, that’s what. I hope they are not let out back into society until they get some mental help and they don’t get out until they are at least 21 (the article doesn’t say how young/old they are). And while they are serving their time, they should be put on a CLOSELY GUARDED work release punishment for the soul purpose to help rebuild of the playground that they destroyed.

  • Not Surprised

    When I was in my youth, I was by no means the best kid that ever walked the planet. But I can honestly say that property destruction never entered my mind as a way of entertaining myself, no less vandalizing a playground. I agree with Bigred, these people need to rebuild (if not also finance) this as part of a punishment.

    As an aside, I would like to say that this goes on all the time and doesn’t make the news. I work in an early childhood learning center for disabled and disadvantaged (two different programs, same building) preschoolers and it still astounds me after all these years what people get up to. We’ve had to clean smeared fecal matter off of our jungle gyms, deal with used condoms, have found drugs of every variety along with paraphernalia, in addition to repeated vandalism and destruction of our toys and equipment.

    Good question, Bigred. Just what does make these people so hateful? I’m not sure I want to know, though.

  • Bigred

    They need to be made to rebuild it as part of their punishment. You have to wonder how these juveniles could be so hateful to destroy something that brings so much joy to the students.

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