In the last two years, the Anchorage School District has had to deal with half a dozen cases of school vandalism and playground fires. Often, the suspects are minors.

Sometimes they are identified on security video, but just as often, they are never caught -- an outcome which leaves the district with some big bills.

ASD spokeswoman Catherine Esary said the district has a cap by law on how much it can collect in civil restitution from parents-- who are responsible for the actions of their minor children. In most cases, that sum is $15,000 -- but it can be as high as $25,000 if the parents have certain types of insurance.

Even if the maximum amount is collected, the district said, it often doesn't nearly cover the costs. The damage from a playground fire is often put in the range of $100,000, like the one at Mountain View Elementary School in which two young boys have been identified as suspects.

After a June arson fire at Gladys Wood Elementary School, ASD Chief Operating Officer Tom Roth said it's up to the district to make up the difference.

"It's not like the district has a pot of money to replace playground equipment," Roth said. "So, when we have to pay for replacement and repair, it's coming out of the classroom."

District officials haven't said how successful they are at collecting compensation, but the Anchorage School Board does have a policy when families don't pay: in those cases, the district can withhold the student's grades, diploma and/or transcripts.

Alaska law allows for the garnishment of both the minor's and their parent's PFD checks to satisfy a decision for restitution. 

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