BHS senior tags labeled ‘just plain vandalism’

An ‘08 tag decorates the ‘Welcome to Bainbridge Island’ sign near the bridge. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
An ‘08 tag decorates the ‘Welcome to Bainbridge Island’ sign near the bridge.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

The debate has gone on for years.

Some think it’s harmless fun. Others feel it’s crossed the line.

Count Bainbridge High School Principal Brent Peterson among the latter group, regarding the latest efforts of outgoing seniors trying to leave their mark on the island – in paint.

“What we’re seeing is not a tradition that is related to graduation,” Peterson said Friday. “It’s just plain vandalism.”

Peterson sent a message to parents Friday admonishing this year’s version of “paint night,” an annual occasion in which seniors paint roads and structures around the island to celebrate their upcoming graduation.

Large tags attributed to the Class of 2008 appeared this week in the BHS parking lot, on the school’s track, and on the “Welcome to Bainbridge” sign near the Agate Pass bridge and several island roads, among other places.

Similar tags have appeared annually near graduation, and have been met with varying degrees of amusement and contempt, depending on the year, the tag and whom one’s asking.

Security cameras were installed in some areas of the school a few years ago, in part to respond to past graffiti problems. None of the graffiti damage this year occurred in those areas.

In his email message to BHS parents, Peterson said the school district is working with police to identify those involved in the incidents, both on and off campus. Anyone caught, he said, will be disciplined.

Officials will also check with local paint merchants to possibly match paint types to purchases and help identify vandals.

Deputy Police Chief Mark Duncan said police have received several reports of paint vandalism this week. Criminal penalties for those caught vary depending on the extent of damage. Damage over $250 qualifies as a felony, Duncan said.

“I have never understood why a group of highly educated high school students seem to think this is the best way to their legacy,” he said. “I’m just hoping they don’t cause too much damage this year.”

Peterson acknowledged that many students don’t partake in paint night. He encouraged parents to take up the topic with students.

“I continue to believe that most of our seniors are using good judgment regarding the activities they engage in as they approach graduation,” he said.

“However, the painting activity that has occurred over the last few nights both here on the BHS campus and at various locations around the island is deplorable. The actions of some of our students are causing thousands of dollars of damage to both public and private property.”

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