Repeated vandalism strikes school bathrooms

Vandalism+is+a+criminal+act+%E2%80%94+destruction+of+property%2C+said+Officer+Matt+Griffin%2C+the+student+resource+officer%2C+speaking+to+Journalism+students+Sept.+17.+He+said+depending+on+the+value+of+the+damage%2C+under+Virginia+law%2C+vandalism+can+qualify+as+either+a+misdemeanor+or+a+felony.

Photo courtesy: Ms. Tochterman

‘Vandalism is a criminal act — destruction of property,’ said Officer Matt Griffin, the student resource officer, speaking to Journalism students Sept. 17. He said depending on the value of the damage, under Virginia law, vandalism can qualify as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Repeated vandalism strikes school bathrooms

Updated Oct. 1

FCPS sent out an email to all parents Sept. 30 regarding the Devious Licks social media challenge, warning against taking part in additional challenges that some students are apparently planning to take part in. 

Challenges that have been circulated range from “Ditch Day” to “Smack a Staff Member.” 

“I want to be clear,” Principal Gordon Stokes said in an announcement Oct. 1, “these are not fun, harmless challenges.” 

Some of the challenges constitute assault and could result in severe consequences.

For more information regarding these challenges, students can refer to the email sent out by the county to their parent or guardians.

Since Sept. 10, multiple incidents have occurred involving students vandalizing school property, following the TikTok trend by the name of “Devious Lick.”

This has included stealing soap dispensers, clogging toilets with toilet paper and spreading red Kool Aid around the bathroom.

More than a joke, these incidents could be a crime — a misdemeanor or even a felony.

“Vandalism is a criminal act — destruction of property,” said Officer Matt Griffin, the student resource officer at Rachel Carson middle school. “You could be charged if this stuff does not stop.”

He said damage of under $1,000 would be considered a class 1 misdemeanor. Under Virginia law, damage over $1,000 dollars is a felony.

Principal Gordon Stokes said consequences that are being applied here at RCMS are confidential, but he did say the families of students involved will be asked to pay restitution for the damage. The total cost of the damage is still unknown, but Mr. Stokes said it is probably well over $1,000.

“People have been identified and they will face consequences,” Mr. Stokes said.

Staff hope that the most severe consequences are not necessary.

“Most of the time, whether it’s this situation or others — people made some really bad choices,” Mr. Stokes said. “I’m not saying they’re bad people, it’s a bad choice. Most of the time they realize the consequence of their actions and choose to make a better choice next time.”

In the meantime, however, he is sorry to see these incidents taking place.

“It’s really disappointing,” he said. “In middle school, we want students to have more freedom. But they’re taking advantage of that and it’s very frustrating. And it breaks the trust.”

Origins of the trend

This trend began on TikTok on Sept. 1, Ms. Tochterman said, adding that the person who started it is facing charges now.

The vandalism at RCMS was first discovered Sept. 10, by both students and staff members, Mr. Stokes said.

Ms. Tochterman said the first bathroom she found affected was downstairs in C pod. “A student came to me and said that there is something in the bathroom,” she said. It was red Kool Aid. Staff said it took the custodial team an hour and a half to clean up.

“It’s so disrespectful,” said Officer Griffin. “I know nobody would want people to come to their house and put red dye on the wall that would take their mother 90 minutes to clean up.”

Since then, soap dispensers have been the main target.

Most of the student bathrooms were affected. By Sept. 17 the only bathrooms available for students to use were the B pod bathroom and the cafeteria bathroom.

Mr. Stokes said this has never happened at this level before. On a scale of 1 to 10 for seriousness, he said, “This is a level 10 in my opinion.”

Costs to RCMS

These incidents have affected most people in the RCMS community. All students have limited access to bathrooms, and teachers’ energy levels have gone down. Parents have received numerous emails regarding the destruction.

“I was shocked when I found out. I thought this kind of stuff only happened in movies.” said Ria Joseph, a seventh grader on the All Stars team. “It was extremely immature and very selfish of the people who did it, because they were only thinking about views and likes rather than other people. They just wanted to draw attention to themselves on TikTok.

“Please do not do this,” she added. “It just makes life at school harder for all of us.”

Aside from the inconvenience from closed bathrooms, there are other costs to the school.

“It’s a financial hardship on the school — it costs money,” said Ms. Tochterman. “It takes away money from other things we could have used it for.”

A large part of the consequences of this incident have been directed towards our custodial staff.

“People disrespect our custodial staff,” says Mr. Stokes. “These are human beings, men and women. It’s hard rough on a normal day being a custodian. For them to have to go clean up after intentional destruction, that’s really hard for them.”

Ms. Tochterman also stressed the effect on the custodians.

“They are one of the hardest working groups in this building,” she said. “If you see them around the building, give them an extra thank you for no reason. It will make a world of difference for them to be seen.”

There’s a cost to the vandals as well, so staff encouraged students to think twice before being influenced by social media.

“Don’t let Tik Tok, Snapchat or anything dictate how you live your life,” Officer Griffin said. “If Tik Tok tells you to do something, don’t listen, because Tik Tok isn’t going to be there to defend you.”

Reporting information

Staff are asking students to share any information that could help get RCMS back to normal.

“If you see something, say something,” said Ms. Melissa Tochterman, assistant principal. “Get information, notice what person is wearing, where they are, and as soon as you have the opportunity to share it with an adult, do that. Every student who has come to share information with us has made this school a safer and better place.”

Here are several ways to report information:

  • Come to the office and ask to speak with Mr. Stokes or an assistant principal
  • Speak with a teacher or Officer Griffin
  • Email a staff member

Students who are hesitant to reach out personally can ask a parent to send an email.

Mr. Stokes said bathrooms will remain restricted at least for another week.

The majority of students have not taken part in these acts. They come to school with good intentions. Staff members are grateful for the students who come to school and do the right thing.

“We’re going to be okay,”  Mr. Stokes said.