Kitsap Sun: Paint pranks crossed the line


Here’s the Kitsap Sun’s view on the vandalized police vehicles:

What happens when high school pranks turn malicious?

That’s an issue facing Bainbridge Island residents after thousands of dollars of damage was done in vandalism attributed to this year’s Bainbridge High School graduating class.

For decades, there’s been a tolerated tradition of high school seniors painting graduation messages on roads around Bainbridge Island. But this year, things went too far. Last Friday night, in addition to painting some roads, persons presumed to be students also vandalized a hand-carved “Welcome to Bainbridge Island” sign with a sloppily spray-painted “08.” Police estimate repairs at more than $2,000. In addition, a 15-foot-long “2008” was painted across seven lanes at the high school track. Removing it was a five-hour job, costing the school district about $500.

Then early Wednesday morning, vandals painted and slashed the tires of seven Bainbridge Island Police Department vehicles at the police parking lot, and spray-painted Chief Matt Haney’s police car at his home. Police believe the graduating class of 2008 may be to blame; “08” was spray-painted on the hood of one police car.

Estimated total damage: $12,000.

Deputy police chief Mark Duncan called it a “ridiculous waste of tax dollars” and a “sad legacy” for the class of 2008.

But Bainbridge Island isn’t alone in suffering from vandalism — or from graduation “pranks” that cross the line into malicious mischief, a chargeable offense that can rise to the level of a felony.

In May 2007, vandals damaged 28 of 33 buses in North Mason School District’s fleet. Instrument gauges were smashed, tires were flattened, putty-like material was shoved into ignitions and graffiti was spray-painted on buses and the pavement. Most of the graffiti referred to the senior class of 2007 at North Mason High School.

About a month later, on June 14, vandals at North Mason High School sprayed graffiti, discharged fire extinguishers, shoved furniture down stairwells, stole a projector and did other damage. Overall, the district suffered more than $38,000 in major vandalism damage during five separate incidents.

A number of teens were arrested in the incidents, including several graduating seniors who were scheduled to receive scholarships for college. One of those involved in the bus vandalism said it was a prank that “got out of hand.”

Every year, vandalism costs tens of thousands of dollars for school districts in Kitsap and North Mason. And throughout the county, there are ongoing problems with spray-painting buildings, fences and signs, other forms of damage. Last month, nine school buses were vandalized in South Kitsap School District. And over the past weekend, vandals did about $1,800 worth of damage to Kitsap County parks, signs and a Kitsap Transit bus stop.

Senior pranks, usually harmless, have long been a tradition at countless school districts. Unfortunately, although most teens can make a distinction between school spirit and malicious vandalism, it’s apparent that some can’t. Or perhaps, they use the former as an excuse for the latter.

Rightly, Supt. Ken Crawford has condemned the recent acts of vandalism, and urged anyone with information to contact authorities.

It also is appropriate for Bainbridge Island to take a critical look at its long-tolerated senior painting tradition, and decide whether it’s still a good fit for our times — or if it now fosters more harm than good.

And if those who vandalized the sign, school track and police cars are identified, they should face prosecution clarifying for them the distinction between a graduation prank and a punishable crime.

One thought on “Kitsap Sun: Paint pranks crossed the line

  1. I would conceive that perhaps, if the road painting were tolerated as the simple, harmless prank that it is, the student would perhaps keep it at that, satisfied they have evaded detection and firmly established a degree of independence, for when you grab a handful of sand, we already know what happens…

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