Vandalism: how much is it worth?

Vandalism at Bainbridge High School is not exactly a new phenomenon.

Thumbing through back issues of the Review some time ago, we came across a news story from the 1950s in which school officials complained of ongoing after-hours rampages on the building and grounds. The smashing of beer

bottles in the school parking lot was the current craze, and in one incident, rocks were thrown through the music room

windows, damaging a horn inside the building.

We suspect that as long as there have been schools and

students, some of the latter have used random destruction to thumb their nose at the strictures of adult authority represented by the halls of learning. But that does not mean a community should resign itself to that inevitability, particularly when one trend – spray-painting building walls with graffiti – is quite expensive to repair.

So we are both puzzled and troubled by an apparent acquiescence to vandalism – or, at the least, a tendency to regard the damage as minor – evidenced in recent discussions within our public schools community.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, Superintendent Ken Crawford has bowed to opposition to his plan to mount outdoor security cameras around the BHS grounds. The school site council (parents and teacher volunteers who act as advisors on issues facing the district) opposed the measure, saying cameras would have a “negative impact” on the school climate; the school board split on the issue, leaving Crawford, metaphorically speaking, to stand and shake his fist after the kids running away down the street.

We’ve spoken with Crawford on this issue several times in the past year, and he is genuinely

dismayed by ongoing damage to schools,

epitomized by periodic outbreaks of spray painting.

In one incident last year, the outside walls of a classroom were fouled extensively; crews had to shave down the building’s masonry to eradicate the blight, at a cost $10,000.

Now, instead of a security system, school officials are asked to “open a dialog with students”; with a construction bond coming up, they reportedly will look at building materials that are more easily cleaned up. And while vandalism occurs on the high school grounds, the cameras already purchased may instead be arrayed around the administration building.

This is confronting the problem?

Maybe that is the problem: nobody wants to admit a problem exists. So perhaps, as one person has suggested, the district should instead turn vandalism into a public relations vehicle. Rather than cleaning up damage as it occurs – effectively masking its seriousness and frequency – maybe we should start leaving it in place, letting it accumulate where visitors to the campus can see it firsthand. Publicize it. Put it in people’s faces. Force the community to confront it.

With due respect to those who think the campus psyche would be damaged by the ominous lens of Big Brother looming overhead, we would suggest that school buildings belong to the community – all of us. Wanton destruction is an issue for citizens and taxpayers, not just parents and students.

How much is it worth to let kids trash the buildings we all pay to build and maintain?

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