SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - In San Jose, more than 70 students at Santa Teresa High School are suspected of taking part in a school prank that involved stealing more than 100 campaign signs. School officials said it's a senior prank that went too far and some candidates said it could hurt their political chances.
At least one candidate has filed a police report over the theft. The stolen signs are being stored in a locked cage behind the school.
Less than two weeks left until the June primary, San Jose City Council Candidate Steve Brown said he's wasting time figuring out who's been stealing his campaign signs. At Santa Teresa High School, he found 48 signs.
"I want these kids to understand you could really affect the outcome of an election by taking away this volume of signs," said Brown.
He is not alone. Joe Lopez who is also running for city council also had his signs stolen.
"Every sign costs money," said Lopez. "It's not just the money. It's the time and effort to go into the neighborhoods and talk to people and convince people to let us put our signs here."
The thefts happened over the weekend. Home surveillance video captured a young man stealing a lawn sign. It was later determined it was all part of a senior prank.
"I've been here for 12 years and in my time most of the pranks have been pretty innocuous," said Santa Teresa High School Principal Greg Louie. "This year unfortunately they crossed some lines"
Louie said on Tuesday morning, school staff found the signs sprawled all over campus. Students also ripped out trees, glued doors and tagged buildings. The cost of the damage, cleanup and the investigation was $2,600.
"It was a dumb idea," said Louie. "Of the ones who talked to me, they didn't think anything more than they thought it would be something different."
"I was disheartened," said San Jose City Council Member Johnny Khamis. "I worked so hard."
Khamis who is up for re-election said while he's happy to get his signs back, he worries the damage may already be done.
"They took away my freedom of speech but they took away the freedom of speech who put up the signs that wanted to support me and I think that's important to note," said Khamis. "You are not hurting my campaign financially you are taking our freedom of speech."
The principal said the students will have to reimburse the school district. Candidates are also recommending the students do community service.