Keep your pens on your paper, not on the walls

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Custodian, Danial Sandoval, says that "Cleaning graffiti off of the walls is very inconvenient because it requires extra time" on top of his other daily tasks. Photo by: Charlotte D'Orsi

Jack Schatzman and Charlotte D'Orsi

Graffiti around VHS is rampant, can it be solved?

[dropcap size=small]U[/dropcap]pon entering any high school bathroom, one is almost 100 percent guaranteed to find graffiti of all kinds doodles, poems, profanities, offensive symbols, etc. adorning the walls of the stalls. Ventura High School is no exception to this as many students take it upon themselves to let their creativity run free during bathroom breaks. While a good portion of the vandalism found in the bathroom stalls of VHS is all in good fun, it is not uncommon to find extremely offensive phrases and symbols as well. Many may wonder, why do students feel the urge to write such hateful things in public places? And should VHS staff and students be concerned about this?

When asked about the issue of tagging at VHS, Principal Cohen commented that “[he] do[esn’t] think that vandalism is a serious issue at Ventura High School but unfortunately vandalism does occur.” Relating to this sentiment, Officer Tony Gomez said that, in recent years, tagging has been “not as bad as [he] thought it would be, it’s been worse before.”

Smudging left behind after the custodians wiped away old graffiti. Photo by: Charlotte D’Orsi

The school administrators and supervisors make sure that when graffiti does appear around campus, it is taken care of and removed in a timely manner. Principal Cohen explained that “whenever tagging occurs [the administrators and custodians] make it a point to immediately go and take a picture of it because [they] compare it with other [pictures].” The graffiti is then removed by either simply washing it off or in some cases, painting over it.

Many students may recall an incident that occurred last year where inappropriate phrases and drawings were spray painted on the side of Tuttle Gym overnight. When asked if the perpetrators were caught, Officer Gomez said that “there was a police report filed but [the school] did not find out who it was.” Principal Cohen added that “VHS is an open campus so we have folks that come from all over . . . so it’s hard [to keep track.]” This is true, while there are surveillance cameras outside there is no way of fully knowing if the culprit is a VHS student or simply a random person who decided to tag the school, this makes catching them very difficult and too lengthy of a process to deal with. 

Custodian, Danial Sandoval, says that “Cleaning graffiti off of the walls is very inconvenient because it requires extra time” on top of his other daily tasks. Photo by: Charlotte D’Orsi

Some students and staff members may have noticed that a very frequent acronym that appears around campus is “V.A.G.” which means “Ventura Avenue Gang” and could symbolize either actual VHS students who are gang-affiliated, or simply students who, as Officer Gomez put it, “just like to tag” and write, and according to Principal Cohen, “downright stupid” things. However, even if students are writing fairly innocuous things in bathrooms stalls, the markings are still required to be cleaned off by the school custodians which adds a generous amount of additional work to their daily tasks. Daniel Sandoval, a VHS custodian, said that he and the other custodians find new graffiti “almost every day”, and that, “it sometimes takes up to an hour to remove it all”, depending on how much there is. Officer Gomez also commented on the disrespect that is demonstrated through vandalism, “Kids shouldn’t be destroying property, that’s concerning to me.”

School administrators utilize several methods in order to minimize the amount of vandalism on campus. Surveillance camera footage is checked frequently to keep track of who is coming and going around campus and if anything out of the ordinary is going on. Principal Cohen commented that “we just have to depend on our surveillance techniques, our supervision, and each other to be responsive. . . . It’s all about keeping accountability.” He added that “[the students] are the most critical source of information.” Administrators highly appreciate when students inform them of suspicious activity since it helps them ensure that everything on campus is running smoothly. 

At the end of the day, some kids just simply cannot deal with looking at a blank wall and therefore feel urged to fill the empty space with anything from a positive message to an antisemitic symbol without taking into consideration the effect that their actions have upon others. When it comes down to what’s right and what’s wrong, school property should not be defaced whether the intention of the graffiti is positive or not. Respect all the effort the custodial staff puts into keeping VHS neat and tidy and take Principal Cohen’s advice to heart, “Put [your] skills to work on paper.”