Enough is Enough: Schoolwide Vandalism Needs To Stop

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Mikayla Kudron

Onix Cruz, head custodian at WSHS, wants students to respect their school.

Mikayla Kudron, A&E Editor

 

It’s Monday morning. You slept through your alarm and left the house in such a hurry that you didn’t have time to use the bathroom. You hurry to the bathroom between classes, only to see that every toilet has been clogged with toilet paper, leaving them unusable and overflowing. The soap and paper towel dispensers have been torn down. There is offensive graffiti scrawled all over the walls and food smeared on floors and mirrors. This may sound like some kind of joke, but unfortunately this is the daily reality for West Springfield High School staff, students, and especially custodians.

According to WSHS head custodian Onix Cruz, the destruction of school property is motivated by disrespect. “This is everybody’s house,” he explained, “If you wouldn’t do this anywhere else, why do you do it here?” According to WSHS English teacher Mr. Brown, students vandalize because, “They don’t feel any ownership of it, and so it becomes a place for them to take out their nebulous but ever present vague sense of oppression and frustration.” WSHS student Trevor Pluff suggests that if students had a place where they were allowed to create art, there would be less vandalism around the school. “We need to find a way to let people present themselves in a productive, appropriate, and legal way to better everyone here,” said echoed Donald Hunter. A place to unleash creativity and express emotions safely could give students an alternate outlet to destructive behavior.

Destroying the school’s bathrooms shows a lack of respect for our school, ourselves, and the staff here at WSHS. Onix is well-loved among the student body and is known for his friendly relationships with students. “I put on a smile everyday. I love my job,” he explained. His love for his job shines through everyday, but the student body is not giving back. “You say that you love me, but this is how you treat me,” said Onix, referring to the food smeared walls and intentionally clogged toilets of the boys’ restroom. “I get the heat from everybody. The school committee, parents, administration,” he continued. “My job is in jeopardy every year.”

Recently, the destruction to the bathrooms reached new heights when sinks in the basement of the school and in the athletics office were flooded with sewage. A student deliberately attempted to flush a Juul down the toilet, resulting in $1200 worth of damage. “Simple things like that have a huge impact,” said Onix. Besides the cost, this incident also was very disruptive to the school day. 

This disrespect doesn’t end in the bathroom. The lunchrooms have been left dirty enough to prompt announcements to be spread throughout the school, emphasizing cleanliness and respect. Trash is left all over the tables, students throw food and try to get it to stick to the walls of the cafeteria. The WSHS custodial staff has tried everything, from removing the dirtiest lunch tables to taking away privileges such as junk food or hot wraps from the lunch menu, but the problem remains. “I do get emotional, I do get upset, but mostly I’m disappointed,” explained Onix. 

What can be done to promote respect and cleanliness within the school? The lunch staff has done just about everything in their power to get the situation under control, but it isn’t enough. One of the roadblocks to eradicating vandalism is anonymity. It is hard to punish students for vandalism when there is no way to prove who the vandals are. Students now have to supply their name and class number when going to the bathroom, to assure that the next vandal is held accountable. This is not just a problem for the custodial staff; in a survey sent out to all WSHS students in January, vandalism was cited as one of the top issues within the school. This should serve as a call to action for students to understand the consequences of the vandalism. Students and administration alike need to treat this as a serious issue, because the destruction must be stopped.