Venice Bathrooms Face Closure After Influx of Vandalism

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Coretta Wilkinson and Zoe Woodrick

Long lines stretching out the door, graffiti spattered across the stalls, and certain bathrooms always closed. Everyone who has used the bathroom this year has seen the drawings on the walls, the polls asking your preference on random things, and the thin layer of paint chipping away just enough so you can see the purple marker that lies underneath. 

English teacher Ruth Greene has taught at Venice High since 2001 and has seen various aspects of Venice over the years. Regarding vandalism at Venice, it is especially common in bathrooms.

Greene is currently teaching in the new shop building which has already seen vandalism. 

“Somebody took some paint out of Mr. Wright’s room and put it in a toilet, and when we had that devious licks issue going on, kids were tearing off dispensers, they were tagging, they were destroying and pulling toilets apart,” she said. 

Junior Imani Boyd thinks that vandalism has increased since she came back from online learning. 

“In certain restrooms, there’s vandalism on the mirrors and the bathroom stalls, and there’s also extra masks everywhere, tissue—very unsanitary,” she said.

The bathrooms have been closed for months and there is still a lot of backlash and incidents of vandalism. With over 2,000 students and only a few bathrooms open across campus, there were surges in lines during breaks and many cases of students being late to class because they stood in a line for an excessive amount of time. 

The crowded and tight restrooms have become uncomfortable and the inappropriate graffiti isn’t reassuring. 

“When they first closed the restrooms and would only open them at nutrition, it would cause long lines and made it hard for people to use the bathroom because there would be such long lines,” Boyd said. “People would go and they wouldn’t even be using the restrooms, it’s just a huge inconvenience.” 

With the school being severely understaffed, vandalism has been at a high, said David Galley, the Dean of Students. There isn’t enough staff to monitor what students are doing and prevent the bathrooms and school property from vandalism. 

“Because of COVID-19, and everything else, the whole school is down a lot of workers, staff, teachers, substitutes, maintenance, campus aidesso it’s just really hard to keep a school this size going with the skeleton crew that we have,” he said. 

Galley has been working at Venice for 13 years, and he has noticed vandalism has been a consistent issue. 

“I know there’s always going to be some taggers, and you know, I’ve seen a lot of graffiti on the walls, outside of buildings,” he said. “It seems to be kind of a constant pain.” 

Others haven’t seen as big of a difference in vandalism as Galley. 

Custodian Jermaine Uwen Jr. has worked at Venice for two years. He has always seen a lot of graffiti, working mostly in the East Building.

“Nothing’s out of the norm,” he said. 

The scent of chemical-ridden walls, as you enter any of the open bathrooms, can be overwhelming—between the potent Sharpie marker drawing of random eccentric cartoons and the cleaning product custodians use to wash it away. Then, paint is used to cover up all of it. 

Galley thinks that graffiti is more common in the bathrooms because of the lack of supervision. 

“I think it’s a place where the kids can feel like they’re safe,” he said. “They can have a friend look out for them and it’s behind a closed door, and there are no adults in there to supervise. I think it breeds a little more graffiti in general.” 

Principal Cynthia Headrick says that vandalism is an issue because it defocuses staff from teaching.

“When vandalism occurs, it detracts administrators and others from focusing on students, instruction, and learning,” she said. “It also detracts from our Building and Grounds workers being able to improve other areas as they must focus on fixing vandalized areas on the campus.”