Repeated bathroom vandalism costs school


Gabriela Paz-Soldan

Custodian Norberto Chaves [left] and Director of Facilities Michael Gorman [right] work to fix a blockage on Sept. 4.

Gabriela Paz-Soldan and Catherine Hayden

Three deliberate acts of student vandalism have resulted in sewer blockages this school year, costing $3,000 in repairs.

The vandalism consisted of foreign objects, including padlocks, balls of paper towels and an apple, being flushed down the toilets, where they blocked the pipes. The incidents began on the first day of school with two more occurring throughout the next two weeks. However, those responsible have not been caught yet.

Director of Facilities Michael Gorman stresses the far-reaching consequences of these actions.

“When the majority of the students are doing great and one or two make poor decisions, all the money that we spend and labor that we do on this comes off the school, your education, the books, the ability of your teachers to do extra,” Gorman said. “…At the end of the day, it costs the whole establishment.”

Submitted Michael Gorman
A toilet in the E hallway bathroom stuffed with paper towels.

Two of the incidents required the facilities department to call in an outside service that used a camera to identify the blockages. Furthermore, custodians had to work overtime in order to get the affected bathrooms up and running for the next school day.

“[Algonquin] is our home,” Gorman said. “Treat it with respect. Have some consideration for the poor guy who’s got to go and [fix] this.”

According to Assistant Principal Tim McDonald, if caught, the student or students who committed these acts could face consequences including suspension and restorative justice. 

In addition to the sewer blockages, urinal partitions in the H200 and H300 boys’ bathrooms were broken and ripped off the wall three weeks ago. Gorman estimates that the total cost to repair the partitions is between $800 and $1,200.

For the past two years, students have been required to sign in and out of the bathrooms, with teachers stationed by certain bathrooms to monitor the students. McDonald believes the recent incidents have led teachers to become more vigilant.

“The one difference is now I feel like [teachers] might have more of a sense of purpose of why they’re monitoring things because of [the acts of vandalism] that have happened,” McDonald said. “They have a different set of eyes on.”

Parent volunteers will also be monitoring bathrooms starting on Oct. 1.

According to senior and student council president Apple Lin, the administration shared possible solutions to the bathroom vandalism problem at a student council meeting on Sept. 26. These included having students sign into the bathrooms with their student IDs, closing specific bathrooms more often, and propping up doors.

Submitted Michael Gorman
An apple wrapped in paper towel found in a toilet in the G hallway bathroom.

While some acts are clearly intentional, Gorman believes that education could reduce backups overall. Signs instructing students on what cannot be flushed down the toilet have been put up in bathrooms around the school.

“[The sign] tells you what not to do,” Gorman said. “Please just work with us. That could cut down some [blockages].”

Though these destructive acts are affecting the entire school, McDonald and Gorman emphasize that it is only a small fraction of the students that are purposely causing damage.

“I know that the people here are wonderful people; the students are all wonderful,” McDonald said. “It just is a real shame when there is a person or a small group of people that are responsible for making such a negative impact.”

Gorman urges students to say something if they suspect vandalism is occurring in the bathroom.

“We’re trying to get the students to get behind [the effort to curb bathroom vandalism] because all the money we’re spending [to fix the vandalism] is coming right out of their education,” Gorman said.