On Tuesday, Feb. 11, creative arts teacher Scott McDonald got up during assembly and gave a heartfelt speech about two cases of hurtful vandalism on campus. This stirred up drama in the community and brought an air of sadness to the school, where the environment had previously been peaceful.
A week later, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, Dean of Students William Gilyard mentioned two more incidents of vandalism: one in the Robotics room, where students’ projects had been soldered together, and one in the aviation club, where the glass on their flight simulator was broken. All of these incidents have been a recent occurrence, and students were shocked to hear about this.
The first thing that was vandalized was a chess board created by senior Jaden DiMauro for “Outside the Box,” the art class he takes this semester. It is not complete yet. Jaden decided to do a chess board because he likes chess and wood carving. He made one when he was in eighth grade and wanted to make one again. This one, which was more detailed, was unfortunately vandalized. The piece was gouged with some sort of instrument and took Jaden about an hour to fix. “I wasn’t angry really, just annoyed,” he said. “It was slightly aggravating.”
The next incident was vandalism in the Robotics room.
Science teacher and Robotics faculty advisor Kathleen DiSanto said that it wasn’t a specific project that was tampered with, the project that was ruined was just closest to where someone was using a soldering iron.
“[The kids feel] angry and confused,” she said. “This happened in a space where they feel safe and comfortable, and this act tainted that space. They are confused about the objective of this person’s actions. Why go after robotics?”
Ms. DiSanto noted the oddity of this situation: “I feel like this event is quite different from ‘traditional’ vandalism,” she said. “It’s odd to deliberately destroy student work. I feel like whoever did it may be really suffering and I hope whoever it is finds the help they need.”
The third incident was with the aviation club: the glass that was screwed down had been shattered, and Mr. Gilyard suspects that it was either someone screwing the glass too tightly, or taking another screwdriver right to the glass.
“Either way,” he said. “It’s hurtful to the club.”
Together, Mr. Gilyard and some other faculty members talked about short-term plans on how to make sure events like this don’t happen again, especially in Robotics. All of the doors in lower Roberts have now been locked, said Mr. Gilyard during his assembly announcement.
“This isn’t a place where we want to lock doors up,” he said. “But this is bigger than just these incidents. We need to get better.”
During his announcement, Mr. Gilyard pleaded to students, asking them if they did one or any of these incidents, or know who did do them, to please reach out to someone on the faculty.
“I know it can be hard to come out and admit to something you did wrong, but this is the real life stuff right here. If it affects one of them, then it affects all of us,” he said.
Mr. Gilyard understands that people are afraid to come out and admit something that they did wrong, but that the benefits for the community outweigh the consequences for the individual. “Fear is an emotion that we all understand. There are a couple of fears that I want to share with you…because I think this is a place that is phenomenal,” he started. “So I fear that the person or persons who committed this vandalism is fearful of getting help because they’re fearful of facing the consequences. Or maybe they have been asking for help and we haven’t heard them or given them the help that they need.” Mr. Gilyard strongly advised that if a student does need help, that they should reach out to guidance counselor Chastity Rodriguez immediately.
Ms. DiSanto shares some fears: “Counseling is the most important thing. I am worried about the emotional state of the person first and foremost,” she said.“We cannot take this community for granted, because when there is a major problem in this community, we will not avert our eyes. We will stare into it and say ‘well this is us, so together we have to do something about being better.’ We will say to the person or persons who did the vandalism that you have to do what’s right. You have to face the consequences. But we will still love you. All of this is true at once. I ask you all to be culture creators.”
As for punishments, Mr. Gilyard mentioned that it would be a discussion between faculty, Citizenship Committee (CitCo) and the person whose work got vandalized.
“The question would be how do they make amends. Aside from whatever discipline, is it monetary?” Mr. Gilyard said. “Is it a combination of things, monetary and an apology? I’d sit down with the team and really think about it, and talk to the kids, asking them ‘what do you want to have happen?”
Jaden just wanted to understand why someone would do this to a piece he had worked so hard on. “I was disappointed and a little upset that someone would seemingly needlessly deface something that I had worked hard on,” Jaden said.“If the person is found, I’d like to have a conversation with them to talk about why they would damage something someone had worked hard on, and maybe get an apology.”
Many people believe that this should be treated the same as any other problem at school. “As far as punishment, I would just like to see the person follow the disciplinary process of the school,” she added on.
Even people whose work had not been vandalized understand the severity of the situation. “ It’s a shame that people’s hard work is getting ruined,” said sophomore Emma Levinbook. “I agree that it’s sad that people don’t have enough respect for their classmates to leave their artwork alone,” said junior Cici Chagnon.
As for what this says about the school community, Mr. Gilyard doesn’t think that it is reflective of what the school is and stands for. “I don’t think it has an overarching meaning about our KO community, it just means that they need to have a place for people to come out and admit what they did wrong.” If this is a mental health issue, faculty advisors urge students to try to get help, and say that there are better ways to get attention. Teachers and students believe that vandalism is not the way to go.