Bathrooms close to combat vandalism and theft

Every year has its own fleeting trends that capture the attention of students from all grades. This year’s social media-inspired fad is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The nationwide TikTok viral challenge known as “Devious Licks” has encouraged vandalism, theft, and destruction of school property even in Ridgecrest. 

Students are now facing the consequences of the actions of a small portion of students’ behaviors, which have very real effects on the entire school community. At Burroughs, the majority of bathrooms have restricted access during the day, and custodians are struggling to keep up with the messes left behind. 

This theft and vandalism cannot be tolerated,” said SSUSD Superintendent Dr. David Ostash in a Sept. 15 message to parents. “It is costly, it is placing undue stress on our school staff who work diligently to ensure our campuses are clean and safe, and our students are being negatively impacted.” He noted that both middle schools and Mesquite are also suffering from the trend.

Bathrooms have been left with broken or stolen soap and towel dispensers, sinks, and toilets. Paper towels are shoved in toilets and soap dispensers are emptied onto the floors. Students have carved inappropriate and disrespectful messages into stalls, thrown trash everywhere, sprayed Kool-Aid and ink over every surface, and much worse. 

“At this point, if you calculate the labor cost dedicated to repair and cleanup, and the cost of replacing equipment, I estimate the cost to be between $3,500-4,000,” said Ostash on Sept. 16. That number has continued to rise.

The Blockbuster staff considered publishing images of the examples of this shocking and juvenile behavior, but we will not be adding to the supposed thrill these students derive from seeing their horrible handiwork online. 

“Somebody needs to put a stop to it. It’s affecting a lot of students who can’t have access to the bathrooms,” said Burroughs custodian Brittney Darouze. “The students are having to spend more time out of class looking for an open bathroom because we are having to close down so many.”

Schools across the country are facing similar challenges with vandalism and the destruction of school property and equipment, with some vandals going so far as to steal fire alarms and computers. In many schools, those responsible are facing criminal charges. 

We’re currently investigating the various instances of vandalism around campus,” said BHS Assistant Principal Sandra Castro. “As we identify the guilty parties, they will be held responsible for their actions and could be reported to law enforcement.

These behaviors are not just destroying school property;  they are creating messes that hard-working school custodians spend hours cleaning. 

I think it’s immature and uncalled for,” said senior Lesly Hernandez. “It’s not really funny to me because we don’t pay for the utilities nor do we pay for our bathrooms to be clean. People are making someone else’s job harder because they think it’s funny.”

When towel and soap dispensers are damaged or stolen, they are not always so easily replaced, resulting in restricted accessibility for students and staff. Overall, the trend is creating unsafe environments that are hazarding the health and well-being of the school population.

“We’re having to spend more and more time cleaning up the mess, trying to find ways to make the restrooms safe again for students, clean again, so none of them get sick,” said Ostash. “Some of the restrooms don’t have ventilation, which makes the odors very strong and puts our health at risk.”

This year’s continued return to on-campus learning hinges on students’ health and safety, and the damages to the bathrooms puts that status at risk. 

With so much at stake, much of the student body is just as displeased with the situation as school staff and administrators. 

Personally, I think it is a stupid trend,” said senior Leah Tomlinson. “Vandalizing or stealing school property isn’t cool, it’s just immature.”

In addition to risking the safety of everyone on campus, students have been experiencing bathroom closures as major inconveniences during the day. Only a few are open and those who need to use the bathroom during class must take extra time to find them, resulting in impacted learning.

“I’m being impacted by the bathroom closures because now I have to go across the school to use the bathroom and it takes away from my class time,” said freshman Evan Cascarano.

The entire situation has caused a mess and the consequences affect the entire school negatively. Unfortunately, nothing seems to explain the behaviors other than blatant disrespect. 

“I’m not really sure what they are accomplishing,” said English teacher David Gerber. “I would like them to know that they are playing into the ‘bad teenager’ stereotype and that it is boring. It is silly for students to have to deal with junky facilities because additional money has to be spent replacing things.”

Ostash had a crucial question for the perpetrators.

“If you were in our situation and doing our job, would you still be doing the same stuff you are doing now?”