Encouragement: by Sabrina Monteiro

Recently, encouraging writing and stickers have shown up in the girls’ bathroom stalls, and whether or not this qualifies as vandalism has become a subject of debate.

Many students agree with junior Thao-Mi Nguyen, who says that she knows “[the writing] is technically not right because it’s vandalism, but at the same time, it can brighten [girls’] days.”

She believes that the bathroom was a good place to situate these messages because she thinks that “if it were on a poster, it wouldn’t get as much individual attention, so the bathroom was more effective because it’s a much more personal space.”

Junior Vanessa Saintvil agrees with Nguyen’s final statement regarding the intimacy of bathrooms adding on that “the bathroom is a private place where people go to when they need to relieve themselves from a toxic environment and emotional distress,” which makes the bathroom the best place for encouraging students.

Saintvil has personally been motivated by the stickers on particularly rough days. Specifically, one day after class, Saintvil said that she went to the bathroom to refresh and when she saw the “you rock” sticker, it made her feel like “everything was going to be okay.” She thinks it’s “empowering to the women in this school because sometimes we’re going through hardships and it’s nice to have friendly reminders like these to keep [them] going.”

Despite the fact that it’s vandalism, women would prefer the heartening notes being illustrated in a safe space. The value of support and happiness is superior to regulations that can be altered at any time.

On a similar note, Junior Vivian Chen says she likes “the intention behind them because although they may be cliche, they’re overall effective.” Chen believes that whoever did this, their intentions were to “simply make girls happy in a society where women are constantly being pulled down.”

Walls are normally “vandalized with hate and negativity that bring girls down, and by putting the stickers in the bathroom, they reverse that and make it a wall of empowerment instead” says Chen.

When asked about how teacher Jennifer Clapp feels about it, she describes a particular memory back when she was visiting a college as an encrypted student, she went into the bathroom at the student center and the walls were covered with “the most interesting graffiti ever.”

This wide variety of writings on them included philosophical discussions, political discussions, science, etc. Clapp thought to herself, “this is a place where people are so excited about ideas.” It’s also ironic because the administration supported that kind of excitement when in many other schools, they’d be painted over. Now looking at this graffiti being exposed here at Malden High School, people are spreading “supportive messages for people to feel loved in a place where a lot of times people go to hide and it’s awesome,” explains Clapp.

Junior Kayla Cadet also has “a positive outlook on the writing. [She] wholeheartedly believe[s] these writings have made [her] feel better.” She further explains that most of the time when you go to the bathroom, it’s because “you’re stressed out and sometimes you unintentionally start reading the writings on the walls. That’s what [she] did and when she saw the encouraging words, it boosted [her]mood.”

These words have expressed female empowerment to help support girls. This may be considered vandalism, but it continues to affect young students in various positive ways.

Vandalism: by Ana Pirosca

Vandalism is the destruction of property that belongs to someone else. While public buildings are no strangers to vandalism, a seemingly new breed of vandalism in the women’s bathroom has been appearing. Stickers and graffiti about women empowerment and even encouragement seem to be appearing across all bathrooms at MHS. But despite how kind these words and stickers seem to be, it all boils down to this: It is still vandalism, and it is still illegal.

Destruction of school property has not been taken lightly by Malden High. Threats to the property results in short term suspension, according to the Malden High Student Handbook. The handbook also specifies that one of the core expectations of an MHS student is the value of “community property” be respected. When a person writes on community property, such as a bathroom stall, it is selfishly taking from the community and devaluating the meaning of being a Malden High student.

Vandalism is also a crime punishable by jail time and monetary fines. Among keying cars and egging houses, defacing public property with graffiti and other forms of "art" is punishable by Massachusetts law with up to three years in prison, and this number jumps to five years if the property exceeds $5,000 with fines three times the amount of damage. Punishment is also increased when churches, schools, cemeteries and memorials are damaged, and further increased when it involves a hate crime. The regulations and laws therefore suggest that vandalism in any shape or form is forbidden; it has no root in the purpose of the graffiti, or its content therefore all graffiti is vandalism and should be treated as such.  

Heather Mac Donald, a reporter from the New York Times,  posed the question: “If your home were tagged during the night without your consent, would you welcome the new addition to your décor or would you immediately call a painter, if not the police?” What people seem to forget is the purpose of regulation against vandalism is to preserve an area according to the owner’s specification. Although it may not seem as though there is one owner of Malden High, damage to its property goes against the specifications of the school.

“It may be inspirational but its still vandalism,” says student Liam Schwab, “it’s against the rules.” Some faculty and students suggest that there are better ways to go about spreading positivity, and resorting to something illegal should not be an option. Latin teacher, Julie Snyder-Fox suggests that “it's a great message… but on the other hand they shouldn’t be writing on the walls” since there are so many other ways that passionate women can spread positivity in less destructive ways.

Fox suggested creating posters, involving Generation Citizen or the Makerspace. To student Rodge Neima Joseph, the writing on the stalls, although cute, seems “unplanned and rushed” and sometimes plainly unprofound. She suggests not only making posters but also writing things more relevant to high school teenagers because “seeing a ‘you rock’ sticker on the wall isn’t going to make me feel better.” Or even just telling someone in person can be more meaningful.

The appearance of graffiti can suggest more about the student population of Malden High and reflect the needs of its people. The appearance of graffiti in locations that are associated with places women may go to hide and cry could suggest that these women don’t feel safe enough to seek help from adjustment counselors or friends. Although it can be uplifting to some, the fact that some women feel as though they can only express themselves appropriately in bathrooms suggests that Malden High lacks opportunities for students to express themselves or spread their love legally.

“Positivity always has a place in school setting,” says Fox, “It's a great idea but not great execution.”

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