A gang of teen-age boys gathered Sunday afternoon at a vacant, graffiti-covered Huntington Beach junior high school and once again began laying on the paint. Only this time, the sweeping brush strokes were not acts of vandalism but good deeds.
They were members of Cub Scout Troop 435 and Boy Scout Troop 435 who had gathered at Gisler Junior High School in Huntington Beach to paint over the obscene language, crude drawings and slogans that accumulate almost mysteriously under cover of darkness at such abandoned buildings.
They were also there to set an example for other youths their age and to send a message to adults: Many students take pride in their schools and communities.
"I think this is a good thing to do, to show everyone that not all kids are into trouble all the time," said 12-year-old Andy Guarnera. "The kids who painted the graffiti probably had nothing better to do, or maybe were just mean. But this is an example for others that there are better things to do."
Sunday's paint job was part of a project by the Boy Scouts and the Huntington Beach City School District to clean up defaced public property in the city. The school district provided about 30 gallons of paint, while the Boy Scouts provided rollers, brushes, pans and labor, scout master Rick Jones said.
Jones said scout leaders and school officials are particularly concerned about the proliferation of neo-Nazi slogans and symbols at the school and other locations. Huntington Beach scouts also have helped to remove such graffiti from underpasses along the Santa Ana River.
"These acts are being done by misguided youths who have never been taught the difference between right or wrong," Jones said. "What we are trying to do today is teach kids that everybody is responsible for their activities and that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in this society."
The 40 scouts who gathered in old jeans, gym shorts, T-shirts and sneakers Sunday made short work of their task. And most, after three or four hours of labor, ended up wearing barely a trace of the brown, beige and rust-red paints used on the building.
Many of the youths, whose ages ranged up to 14, made faces at the spray-painted words, which ran from the innocuous--"dog meat"--to the indecipherable, to more crude phrases.
But for the most part, the scouts claimed not to even notice.
"I just got to work and started painting and haven't even been paying attention to what's there," 13-year-old Kenny Nehrbass said. "If it was something obscene, I'd try not to read it anyway."