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What you need to know for 08/16/2017

Gloversville students accused of cutting trees not going to graduation

Gloversville students accused of cutting trees not going to graduation

The two Gloversville High School seniors who were arrested for their alleged roles in chopping down
Gloversville students accused of cutting trees not going to graduation
Gloversville High School seniors Kurtis Callen, left, and Vincent Scott will not be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies after they were accused of cutting down 17 trees surrounding the school building.

The two Gloversville High School seniors who were arrested for their alleged roles in chopping down 17 remembrance trees that once surrounded the school will not be able to participate in graduation Saturday.

But Kurtis Callen and Vincent Scott, though suspended for the rest of the school year, were given the opportunity to take final exams, Board of Education President Richard Carlson said, and to receive a diploma if they passed.

He did not know Thursday whether the students took the exams or passed them. But he condemned their alleged act, calling it “senseless and destructive” and said it “hurt a lot of people in the community.”

The details of the court proceedings against Callen and Scott are not available to the public as their criminal records have been sealed.

Fulton County Court District Attorney Louise Sira said without looking at the case file she suspected the records are sealed because Callen and Scott have been granted youthful offender status, as suspects younger than 19 are eligible to receive.

The trees that were cut down had special meaning to a lot of Gloversville High School graduates, Carlson said. They had been donated by previous graduating classes and/or planted in memorial of deceased alumni.

School district spokeswoman Betsy Demars said there has been an outpouring of offers of help by people who want to make donations to replace the trees.

“We have received a ton of phone calls from people who want to help replace the trees,” she said. “This could help turn this story around.”

Callen, the stepson of St. Johnstown police chief Diana Callen, was arrested at the scene of the crime. Police said he was trying to hide the chain saw he'd used to cut down the trees when officers found him.

He was charged with felony criminal mischief and criminal trespass. He also was charged with third-degree assault in connection with a separate incident.

Scott was arrested after police obtained video surveillance from the scene three days later. Police said he was involved in planning the prank and acted as a lookout but did not take part in the actual cutting down of the trees. It is unclear what charges were brought against him.

“When the trees were cut, the community’s spirit was also cut,” Carlson said. “But the people of Gloversville have responded well.”

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