SANTA CLARA -- Three male middle-school students were arrested Monday on suspicion of breaking into Wilcox High School over the weekend and brutally killing animals that were part of a school science program.

The boys are also suspected of vandalizing the school, including breaking into a snack shack, breaking windows and damaging vehicles in the automotive program, Lt. Kurt Clarke said. In two separate acts, four chickens, one duck and one rabbit were killed, according to Santa Clara Unified School District spokeswoman Jennifer Dericco.

"Our students and our staff are very involved in raising and caring for these animals," Dericco said. "You can understand how devastated they're feeling right now. The animals very much become part of the community."

The boys were arrested on suspicion of cruelty to animals, vandalism and burglary, Clarke said. Because they are juveniles, their names will not be made public. Police did not specify the ages of the boys, only to describe them as middle-school age students.

Dericco said the boys are all middle-school students in the Santa Clara Unified School District.

There were three separate acts of vandalism at the school over the weekend, Dericco said.

On Saturday, one of the school's athletic coaches heard an alarm ringing in the area of the football field, Dericco said. The coach investigated the noise and discovered the snack shack connected to the stadium had been broken into and vandalized.

Sunday afternoon, two volunteer workers who care for the animals on the weekend found four dead chickens inside a coop. Early Monday morning, a science teacher found a dead duck and dead rabbit.

One chicken and one rabbit were unharmed.

The animals were part of a school garden on campus and were part of the science curriculum, Derrico said. Eggs produced by the chickens were used by the school's culinary arts program.

On Monday, school officials also discovered that vehicles and engine blocks located in a fenced-in yard were vandalized.

Dericco said Wilcox students and staff expressed some relief that the teens arrested were not part of their school community. But she added there is "sadness we heard middle-school-age students from our district" have been arrested on connection with the acts.