Repeated graffiti symbol seen in several restrooms

Two drawings of an unrecognized, unique symbol were found in different boys’ bathrooms on campus this month, according to TPHS Assistant Principal Robert Shockney.

This was “the first thing back on the wall” since TPHS bathrooms were repainted over winter break, Shockney said.

“We do see [repeated images] on occasion, but I wouldn’t call it normal,” TPHS Principal Rob Coppo said.

Administration asked staff to report if other similar markings were found around campus or on paper.

Vandalism and graffiti have proved recurring issues on campus, with bathrooms intermittently being closed for cleaning through the past few years. This year, in an effort to decrease the number of students in bathrooms during class, TPHS implemented new sign-out and hallway pass policies, limiting the number of students allowed out at a time to one per class. Despite the recent incident, these new measures have seen success, as graffiti and vandalism have declined this year, according to Coppo.

“I think knowing that we can trace when somebody was in the restroom and talk to them has helped resolve or lessen some of the graffiti,” Coppo said.

With the new images found, the administrative team is adhering to standard procedures for handling graffiti incidents on campus, which includes cataloging photos of the symbol, according to Coppo.

“Every single instance of graffiti can be added together once we identify the person, and it’s kind of like a criminal count,” Coppo said.

This “count” allows for restitutions, where students can be charged for each instance as compensation for factors such as extra time and materials expended by custodians. Administration also takes action to cross-reference new incidents with old photos to findpossible matches, according to TPHS campus supervisor Marshall Saunders.

In addition to photographing and cataloging, the graffiti procedure used on the recent symbols involved cleaning the graffiti by “grinding up the walland painting over it,” according to Shockney.

Disciplinary action for campus vandalism involving graffiti varies by case, but could involve consequences such as detention or suspension, according to Shockney.

“If [the graffiti] is gang-related, that’s illegal, so we have to intervene immediately and call law enforcement,” Coppo said.

Most graffiti on campus is found in the B Building exterior and interior bathrooms and occurs during class periods, when students are “roaming,” according to Saunders.

While students visiting the restroom may now see fresh walls, in the past, stalls have been covered in scribbles and doodles — from inspirational quotes to obscenities.

“It’s not a good way of expressing one’s thoughts and opinions,” Jack

Sheehy (11) said, adding that he sees graffiti every time he enters a bathroom on campus. “The boys’ bathrooms are an absolute wreck.”

Another student agreed.

“I see [graffiti] all the time, it’s all over the stalls,” the sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

TPHS AP Art History teacher Colin Cornforth shared an opinion similar to Sheehy’s.

“Generally speaking, graffiti as a means of defacing public property or claiming particular territory with your name … is unnecessary and is silly,” Cornforth said.

However, Cornforth noted that graffiti can be used as an art form, if intended to “provide something new and beneficial to an area.”

Some schools have recognized this potential in graffiti and provided a space for students to produce graffiti. The Graffiti Art Park at the University of California, San Diego, which opened in 2014, provides students with large outdoor boards to paint as they see fit. Executive Director of University Centers Sharon Van Bruggen, the park’s creator, described it as a “collaboration between students and administration,” inspired by Writerz Blok, another graffiti art park in southeast San Diego.

“[It’s] one of my favorite places on campus,” Bruggen said. “There is always something new to see or read there.”

However, the UCSD Graffiti Art Park includes an online reporting process in its guidelines, recognizing the potential for harassment and discrimination in symbols.

At TPHS, “nine times out of ten” it is a student that reports instances of inappropriate or offensive graffiti to administrators or staff, Coppo said.

Photo by Anna Opalsky/Falconer

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