Vandals Ravage Community Schools

Vandals Ravage Community Schools

Genie Lee, Lifestyle Editor

Moraga has a problem, which has recently manifested in a string of vandalism at various community schools, including Campolindo.

Defecating on the floor, flooding, and knocking over soap dispensers have been the sad and in one instance grotesque behavior of vandals in campus bathrooms.

According to Associate Principal Laura Lee, there have been as many as 15 incidents of varying degrees so far this school year on campus.

As a result, administration, teachers, and custodians have been inconvenienced and funds have been spent in order to clean up and repair the restrooms. After the boy’s bathroom between the E and C halls had been flooded and soap was spilled on the floor on November 7, custodian Jesus Paniagua had to mop the entire bathroom (with the help of one of the vandals that had been caught.)

“It makes it more difficult because we have to wash the whole bathroom and then with the soap, it’s harder to keep it clean because the soap is coming out… They break these dispensers and now the school has to pay for them. It’s money. It costs money and work,” Paniagua said.

Some of the culprits were caught with the help of surveillance cameras and eyewitnesses around campus.

According to Lee, faculty on campus including teachers and administrators have “been monitoring the bathrooms very carefully, monitoring students being out of class. It’s typically happening during class time and so having an awareness of who’s out of class at the time of the incidents and so, therefore, holding students more accountable for their actions because we’re able to find who some of those students are,” she said.

Lee said the custodians have been a big help, not just in cleaning up the damage but also helping to catch the vandals. “They go into the restrooms to clean them and they’ve found some destruction or such things have happened and then that’s when we were able to really pinpoint it,” she said of the administration’s use of faculty observation and video footage to determine who was inside the restroom when vandalism occurred.

Associate Principal Jon Drury has become a frequent visitor of the restrooms. Sophomore Jacob Chirayil said, “Anytime I’ve walked into the bathroom, he just comes and points at me and says, ‘Keep it clean boys,’ or something like that… I think it’s kind of weird but if that’s what needs to be done, then so be it,” he said.

Not every student is happy about the added scrutiny however; Senior Angad Chimni said, “I feel like maybe just leave our bathrooms to us and if we poop on the walls that’s our consequence.”

The recent rash of vandalism has not been exclusive to Campolindo.

In early November, Los Perales Elementary School was also vandalized as light fixtures, drinking fountains, and the newly installed hydration stations were purposely damaged.

At Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School (JMIS) vandalism was reported in early October. According to core teacher Lisa Gruen, vandals broke into the campus garden and smashed student-made totem poles on the sidewalk, overturned a bench made by an Eagle Scout, and destroyed plants.

Although the Moraga police were called, “the problem that they faced with pressing charges or anything like that was that 1, we don’t have any video cameras on campus… and then the other piece is that the damage couldn’t be a monetary value adding up to $1,000, and that seems to be when the Moraga police will actually do something about it,” said Gruen.

Additional vandalism occurred at JMIS on Halloween. The porta potties on the athletic field placed in front of the office doors, and tipped over so that the liquid from the porta potties sloshed out onto the pavilion where students normally eat their lunches.

According to eyewitnesses, the vandals in that incident were Campolindo sophomores.

JMIS suffered additional damage over the Thanksgiving break. 2 trees located in the middle of the campus were completely knocked down.

“That really broke people’s hearts because those trees were particularly beautiful and right in front of the science buildings and they were in full color, red and golden orange leaves… The poor custodian looked so sad and he said that the red leaves on the ground are almost symbolic of blood,” said Gruen.

Because these trees have a substantial monetary value, the school will be able to press charges if the vandals are caught. JMIS Associate Principal David Lanuza said, “This last incident from our point of view was really bad… We consider that to be a significant act.”

Lenuza said, “We’re obviously having conversations about interacting with Moraga police so that they do more drive-bys at night… It becomes not just a school discipline issue, it becomes an issue that Moraga police department gets involved with.”

JMIS is also exploring the installation of surveillance cameras.

Lee believes that the main solution to this recent escalation in student destructiveness is to help students understand the value of community space. “And so that’s work we can all do together to support our students in taking pride in our campus and seeing it as a place that they want to respect and that they don’t feel tempted to vandalism,” she said.

“What we believe in is progressive discipline. Trying to not initially throw the book at someone but trying to work with them and take accountability and get them to repair what they had done, financially or otherwise, it could be community service, etc,” said Lenuza.

Senior Lauren Landry said, “I think it’s just more of a common sense problem within the students versus a lack of guidance from the administration.”

According to Gruen however, a big part of it has to do with discipline, or the lack thereof, from parents. “We get a big fight from parents. Parents will say it’s not fair to punish their child when I’m a firm believer that life has consequences.”

Without anyone at home holding the vandals accountable, Gruen believes it is difficult for the students to actually learn a lesson. “I really wish that the Moraga parents would understand the life skills that’s connected. I have kids at Campo too and I know some things happen at Campo and I’ve heard that a lot of the time when even the kids get suspended, parents say, ‘Oh, it’s okay. You can have friends over’ and in that case, I have to disagree,” she said.

“If we’re gonna throw a term at it, it’s Common Core: preparing kids for real life,” said Gruen.

The unfortunately reality now is that there are students who are willing to destroy the very things that are intended for their benefit.

Landry said, “I definitely think it’s just rude towards the schools and other students and I think it’s a form of being just a little too condescending and full of themselves and it seems like an act that is just so immature and wild. I think they should find and punish the person who did it because it’s super disrespectful for the people who have to clean it up.”

There remain those who don’t think the vandalism is much of an issue however. Sophomore Bradford Martin said, “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. In other schools, stuff like this happens all the time and I don’t think that we should be so special.”

Regarding the defication on the floor, Martin said, “Honestly, it takes like 3 seconds to clean up… Get a glove or something.”

Much of the suspicion has been directed at the underclassmen at Campolindo, particularly the sophomore class. Landry said, “It seems to be a general consensus that it was probably an underclassman boy who did it.”

Chimni said, “I think the underclassmen who are doing it should just realize, ‘Hey, this is dumb, we shouldn’t do that.'”

Gruen recalls the current Campolindo sophomore class as particularly rowdy middle schoolers. “We did have a tough class, the sophomore class, I hate to really label them. They were very difficult to manage. The whole way through we tried so hard to model good behavior and the hardest thing we’ve found is holding people accountable,” she said.

“Students in Moraga, generally speaking from my years at Campo, and this is my 2nd year here, we have students that are great. They make good decisions, nothing’s ever perfect but I like the culture that we have here so I don’t think it reflects on the students in Moraga. It reflects very specifically on whoever did this,” said Lenuza.