Graffiti on the rise


Photo by: Paul Feric

Cam High custodians have attempted to remove graffiti off bathroom stalls using putty. However, perpetrators continue to mark over the clean-up effort.

A spike in the number of graffiti tags across campus, particularly in student restrooms, has Cam High administrators on edge and looking for assistance from students, staff, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s department.

Assistant principal Mrs. Alexis Ortiz is the administrator tasked with ameliorating the problem. “We have tagging at school, and it’s happening more and more frequently,” said Ortiz. “Photos are shared with administration, school resource officers, and other schools to identify aggressiveness, along with constant restroom checks by campus supervisors and administration.”

The tagging in the bathrooms is not confined to one section of the school, but exists in all bathrooms, the tennis courts, the J and C wings. “I’ve been noticing [the graffiti] increase over the four years I’ve been coming to the school, and recently it’s been coming up more in the last two months. Most of the time it’s writing,” said Celina Zakarian, senior. “Usually it would be something that involves drama- often times I would see a full conversation being written on it and it’s either in sharpie or pencils. It really brings down the whole feel for the school itself. It makes it seem less professional and sophisticated.”

Cam High administrators and supervisors have shared photographs of the graffiti with the Ventura County Sheriff’s department. Individuals who deface public property can be held accountable and penalties can include suspension, arrest, and restitution for any damage caused by the graffiti. The OUHSD also has said that graffiti may result in expulsion for the perpetrator. Dr. Kim Stephenson, principal, said that boys and girls bathrooms are checked daily with equal vigilance. “Bathrooms are checked multiple times a day; however, it can vary depending on the graffiti issues we are having at the time,” she said.

Students have reported seeing campus supervisors checking only boys bathrooms in the J and C wing. Boys must line their belongings along the side of the bathroom before they enter, to prevent any tagging equipment from making it in to the restrooms. “For a while we had tagging issues primarily in the boys restrooms, so boys were asked to leave their backpacks outside while in the restroom,” said Stephenson. “This was a temporary measure taken.”

Campus supervisors are in charge of  monitoring the halls and restrooms for graffiti activity. Oscar Blanco, an on-campus supervisor at Cam High, monitors the J building, alternating shifts with other campus supervisors. “It is most often that the bathrooms in the J building experience the most graffiti and are under a lot of scrutiny,” Blanco said. “We have to check bathrooms every two weeks. If not, all the toilets will be filled with graffiti.”

“I was going to the bathroom during lunch and a campus supervisor was to my right, inside the bathroom, and his car was parked outside,” said junior Luis Farias, describing his first experience with the bathroom security. “I didn’t see him at first, and as I was heading to the bathroom, he told me to take off my backpack. I looked to the right, and there were backpacks lined up against the wall.”

Graffiti has been not only occurring on campus but on the buses at Cam High as well. “New graffiti started showing up [on the bus], and it’s bright blue,” said Kimberly Pineda, senior. “It’s just tagging random letters, and in the bathrooms there are inspirational quotes and names sometimes.”

Some of the students at Cam High believe that graffiti as a whole is more of a positive than a negative. Samantha Tovar said that she feels as if it gives the bathroom individuality. “[The graffiti] is something to look at, and sometimes it’s really inspirational-  like, ‘be secure with yourself’, ‘be happy’, ‘love your body’, ‘love others’, and more. I don’t really see the graffiti as very negative,” Tovar said. “It is defacing school property, though.”