Could We Have Done Better?

Could We Have Done Better?

I work at the best school in the District.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that my school is the flagship school in the District.  Aside from the completely renovated heritage-style three storey school, the grounds are tastefully landscaped, and the exterior has been beautified in recent years with colourful murals which reflect our diversity and our community spirit.  The brand new enclosed hockey rink combined with a relatively new soccer field makes me proud when I arrive at work each day.

You can imagine how I felt when, on Tuesday morning, I arrived at work at 7am to find three separate messages spray-painted on the concrete at the south entrance to the school.  I was outraged!  The messages read, “@#$% the world 666”, “We rule this town,” and “Ho’s legs are as wide as the hallways.”  I could not stand the thought of students seeing the messages when they arrived at school, so I covered them up with garbage bags and masking tape.  Shortly after school started, I used the experience as a circle discussion in class, which led to a writing assignment.  A selection of student writing can be found below.  I assumed that someone would be on their way to school soon to remove the paint.  I was wrong.  72 hours later, two of the three messages remained.  Not only that, but since Tuesday afternoon when the first message was cleaned, the other messages were uncovered and left visible for all to see.  Could we have done better?

There exists an unfair stigma attached to my school.  Some people call it an inner-city school, others call it the downtown school.  In non-educational circles, it has been described as the rough school, and the troubled school.  It is a myth.  Granted, my school has its challenges, but the labels are unnecessary and unfair.  By not acting swiftly enough, have we perpetuated the myth?  A local elementary school visited our school twice this week for soccer games.  On both occasions parents, teachers, and students from the visiting school have accessed the south-entrance and encountered the disturbing messages.

Students at my school are some of the most socially conscious students I have encountered in the District.  We engage our students several times a day on the topic of social responsibility.  It is even one of our school goals.  We use restorative circle practices, teach and reteach our school matrix, and have committed to a year-long program called, “Play Is The Way,” which teaches children social responsibly through play.  In a nutshell our students, and in particular, our grade 5-6 leadership students, have a good sense of right from wrong.  Could we have modelled a socially conscious attitude ourselves and worked to remove or cover up the messages so our students were not exposed to such filth?  Could we have done better?

I wonder if parent pressure in a different school might have resulted in a quicker clean up effort of these disturbing messages.  If parents are not advocating for such things at my school, surely the school and the school district needs to be.  I am not aware of our District protocol for such events, but I would like to see it reviewed.  Disturbing messages need to be covered up before they are cleaned.  72 hours and counting, is too much time to deal with such issues.

Letters written by our students:

Vandalism is impacting kids in many ways, and what just happened at our school is no acceptation.  Some of us think of school as home.  Meaning we’ve been here for a very long time and we feel safe here.  It gives the school a bad reputation.  When parents come to school with their kids, who are still very young, and it makes them think “wow what kind of community  would do something like that.”  It doesn’t feel very safe when you read some of the comments.   As in “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ was here” or “I’ll be back”  it scares kids.  And even for me it just doesn’t make the school feel like a safe place, like it should.  When I come to school and see nasty or rude or inappropriate writing somewhere where lots of people ( youth, elderly, etc etc…) can see it, I feel disgusted.  >:( – Bryanna

Vandalism needs to STOP!
Vandalism needs to STOP!  Vandalism is impacting our community.  They are writing nasty things to our schools.  Vandalism is a crime. It’s wrecking property.  It’s making other people want to do vandalism as well.  If you see someone do it then sometimes you feel like doing it to. it makes me feel mad. – Andy

Vandalism needs to STOP!
This “vandalism” needs to stop, because some people care about these places!Some people stayed at Central Elementary school for along time. kids don’t need to know these kind of words. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like school vandalism. I don’t like the idea that our school district has to pay for this “vandalism”. I think the people that did this, should pay for it, also pay the time for cleaning this mess up. I would be delighted, to know people are amazing enough to stop, this Vandalism! =:) – Jessie

Dear Mayor Sharon Gates

When I came to school and saw vandalism on the cement I know lots of people where impacted.  The children were impacted they see the things that were written.  If you think about it what if the little children see the vandalism and they say the words that they see.  Our custodian is impacted be cause he has to clean the it.  How do you think he feels when he can’t clean it because of the paint they used?  And the parents get impacted because their children go to the school that has vandalism on it.  The parents probably feel like something could happen to their children.  The vandalism makes me feel angry and it needs to stop. – Taylor

Vandalism is wrong.  Little kids will be affected.  If it says bad words, little kids might say those words.  Vandalism makes the world look horrible.  Less people will want to go to that place.  Parents will be more protective of their children.  Parents won’t let their children to go outside very often.  Vandalism does not belong in this world. – Sereena


  1. Timely and well-written Christopher. I completely agree. As a TOC to your school today, I too was disappointed to see the message in spray paint and I assumed that it was done the previous night. I had no idea it had been there for so long. Again, disappointing. How ironic that your second picture shows the tile mosaic on the wall that students in your school had their hand in creating just a year ago. Art in the background and graffiti in the foreground.
    My father was an administrator for almost his entire career in the Chilliwack school district and in fact, was the principal at Central between 1975 and 1980. In a conversation we had years ago about graffiti in bathrooms etc., he told me that the best deterrent was to clean it off / paint over it as quickly as possible. The longer it gets left up, the greater the perception is that it’s okay to be there.
    I hope that your student’s letters are read by the Maintenance Staff and that the painted messages are removed quickly. Simply put, Central deserves better. – BH

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the posting, Brad. Now a week later, I continue to try to justify to myself, reasons why the vandalism remains, but I can’t.

      I have made both the superintendant and school board chair aware of the situation, and the disturbing messages remain. I’m not sure what else to do without overstepping my boundaries.

  2. Have you ever seen how bad graffiti looks after it’s been painted over. Makes an otherwise appealing place look decrepit. That would have to be removed as well as the original graffiti. Unfortunately, removal doesn’t always work the first time & can be very toxic. If a secondary method of removal is needed – the more toxic the procedure and I would imagine, a concern for the children & people around. Could it be that this was the case? Were there days there were no children there? I believe the community part of the school is in use on weekends, too. These are challenges to any removal service – not just the maintenance team.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read the post, G Lagerole. Your comments were thoughtful and informative.

      I agree that covering up profane messages with additional paint creates a larger surface area of paint to eventually remove. However, I strongly believe that covering the messages in whatever way possible would have been the right thing to do in this situation. Our school district has a policy of removing profane messages from school grounds within 24 hours. The disturbing messages were visible to students aged between five and twelve for seven days. The impact that a large stain would have on an eight year old is insignificant compared to their daily exposure to these filthy words.

      To answer your question about safety concerns, I trust that the method the removal service finally chose was completely safe, because they started the process at one of our busiest times of the day. There were, of course, earlier opportunities to clean without the same amount of traffic in or around the building.

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