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Vandalism becoming a problem at Harding

A+sign+on+the+bathrooms+at+the+senior+lunch+area.
A sign on the bathrooms at the senior lunch area.

A sign on the bathrooms at the senior lunch area.

Jacqueline Martinez

Jacqueline Martinez

A sign on the bathrooms at the senior lunch area.

Jacqueline Martinez, Reporter

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A school bathroom is one of the most common scenes of vandalism. Anyone who has ever gone to a school bathroom knows that messages on the walls of stalls are so common that it’s unnatural to see them without it.

Most students can probably agree that trying to go to the bathroom during passing time can be a waste of time and ultimately competitive in terms of who gets to use the bathroom, who gets to be in the line and who has to forfeit because of the long lines. Students who are met with closed bathrooms often complain to their friends without knowing why some bathrooms are permanently closed during certain times of the day.

Patrick Coyne, the ninth grade administrator and assistant principal, said that for as long as he’s been at Harding there has always been a problem with vandalism, which frequently occurs multiple times a month. “Some vandalism is just graffiti,” he said. “Sometimes there’s damage that’s done… like a [clogged] piece of equipment… [where] they have to shut it off altogether and lock it until there’s physical repairs.”

Vandalism doesn’t only damage the bathroom; it also becomes a serious problem when others become targets of threats or bullying. “People put a message about another person and they put their names on the door,” said Mr. Coyne. “It was my first response [to] lock the bathroom, ask the custodians to go and clean it. And if the students whose names were on there don’t know about that, that’s a good thing.”

Lockers are another area where vandalism has been happening. “Lockers are probably the worst thing,” said Mark Head, another ninth grade administrator. “It feels bad because we just got them painted within the last two years… now you’re actually damaging the paint that’s on a locker.”

There was occasional spray paint graffiti that was another story in itself. “[We used] to bring out the sand blasters and clean out the outside of the school when people have spray painted on the outside of the building,” Mr. Head said.

The bathroom is the setting of most acts of vandalism and general nuisance. “Usually it happens after school… teachers are so nice to students, they open the bathroom without supervision,” said Chou Chang, another of Harding’s assistant principal, “and students stay in there [and vandalize]… That’s why we close it.”

Dr. Chang said that the bathroom next to the senior lunch area was closed due to the constant trashing and clogging of the space. When people freely toss around their breakfast in the morning and purposely clog toilets with paper towels, it not only affects the unfortunate students who have one less toilet to use, but it also costs a lot. “It depends how big, sometimes they put a thing and clog [the toilet], [then] the plumber has to go down [to the basement],” said Dr. Chang, adding that the average plumber charges about $50 an hour.

“We want students to use [bathrooms] conveniently,” said Mr. Coyne. “Yet, with students [who find] that they can’t go to the one that’s closest by and [they] just need to spend 5-10 minutes walking around looking for another one even though they didn’t do anything wrong… There’s a sense of paying the price for the people who broke the rules.”

Kharme Mahamed, a freshman, believes that there should be better punishments for vandalizing. “I think students are let off a little too easy [on vandalizing],” he said.

He recalls a story he heard where a student went as far as to spread feces on the walls. “A message to all the kids, please do not vandalize the bathroom… it makes me not want to use the bathroom, it makes me want to hold it and I don’t think any kid wants to hold it.”

Kylie Nielsen, a new student to Harding, said she thinks people should just stop vandalizing the bathroom. “There’s writing everywhere,” she said, adding that there were threats carved into the walls of the stalls that she found disturbing.

Of course, there’s always going to be that one person who writes on the wall, but Mr. Coyne wants everybody to “keep it in mind to protect the shared space. Be respectful of the shared space” because “if everyone would be mindful of that… they could be open all the time.”

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Vandalism becoming a problem at Harding