Vaping, Graffiti Closes Bathrooms

Vanessa Saintvil also contributed to this article. Photo by Sabrina Monteiro.

A short while after coming back from summer vacation in 2019, the Principal of Malden High School, Chris Mastrangelo, had come to the conclusion that a majority of the bathrooms needed to be locked. 

There has been an ongoing problem with students skipping class. The situation at hand seems to be that many students are not using bathrooms in the way that they should be and are instead, being used for graffiti writing and vaping.

Mastrangelo mentioned that these were already issues in previous years but that this year in particular, it has gotten worse. He explained that the administration is “looking into other solutions so [they] can get the bathrooms reopened but the quickest thing [they] could do was decrease the number of bathrooms [they] had to monitor.”

This change, however, has caused some frustration within the student body. It has been proven especially difficult for students who use the bathroom appropriately since it interferes with class time that is taken from them when they have to take twice as long to look for an open bathroom. It has also been worse in terms of waiting in lines to use the bathroom. So even if students find the bathroom quickly, they are stuck in a crowded area waiting on others. 

Senior Rodge-Neima Joseph is one of many students who are angered by the situation. She explained that she did not understand what was happening at first and although she began to afterwards, she still finds it frustrating. She expressed that “it is like a maze run for no reason. People are still vaping in the bathrooms and [locking them] is not solving the problem. It just makes it harder for people trying to be good students.” Joseph also said that “it was for a good cause but [they] did not think of all the consequences.” 

Mastrangelo and the administrative team are doing their best to resolve the issue and Mastrangelo even shared that the “complaints are legitimate and quite frankly, [he does not] disagree with them which is why [they are] trying to come up with other solutions.” In addition, he also thinks “[they] need to figure some ways out to be more respectful of [the] school.” 

The school has hired another building monitor and plans on hiring one more. Nothing is set and stone yet but other solutions include recruiting staff to have bathroom duty instead of studies, adding more cameras with different angles (third and fourth floor in Holland building), and for the boys bathroom specifically, the thought of keeping the doors opened has crossed their minds, since there is a wall right when you walk in.

Mastrangelo can not stress it enough that these are “things that [he does not] want to do, things that [they have] never had to do. Students have been respectful but things have changed. The basic respect of this building and some of what is going on in bathrooms, [they have] never seen before.” 

When asked what he thinks caused all of this, his theory is that it has to do with the transition of students coming from different middle schools. “Every year at MHS we are taking the cultures and personalities of five different schools in this building (Ferryway, Salemwood, Linden, Beebe, and Forestdale) and with no judgement because they are all great, but the feel of every school is much different. And they are all different from us.”

Furthermore, Mastrangelo is seeing more “intense behavior. [He] think[s] political climate of this country contributes to it too. Where there is some political divide and with that, is an inherit of mistrust maybe and we have never had that. We have always been an open school who makes great connections with our students.”

Stephanie Sibley, who is the Boyle House Principal, was involved in the decision of the bathrooms being closed. Last year, there were suspensions and vaping incidents. Sibley admits that the “bathrooms that are closed right now are because the fire alarms went off due to vaping.” Sibley has heard many complaints from students about the bathrooms being crowded and the lines being too long.

 When asked about her opinions on why students are displaying negative behavior around the school, Sibley believes it is because it “takes freshmen a while to accept that high school is different from middle school.” However, she has seen an improvement in the freshmen class and wants “students to understand the health risks that come with vaping.” There is a program called the Safe Project that help students that have addictions receive support. 

High school can be difficult especially when you are a freshman because it is hard to adapt to new changes. Sibley recognizes that students are going through things such as “anxiety and stress.” Sibley noticed that the “time frame from the end of October through the end of December” is a difficult time of the year. Administration like herself are doing their best to “support students” so Malden High can provide a “safe space for all of [their] students.”

The administration are looking for alternative solutions instead of closing the bathrooms. She wants to place signage in the bathroom. Also administration has provided referrals to the “Safe Project that help students that have addictions because yes there are consequences but we are trying to give students support.” Sibley hopes to “get to the root of the problem and educate students.” She has already seen an improvement in students compared to last year because they are realizing the health risks.

James Valente, who is the Media teacher for Malden High School, heard discussion from administration about ways to “combat the issue of vaping.” He encourages and engages students in his advanced media class every year to different types of film productions. Valente brought up the topic of vaping because so many people are doing it. His class decided to focus on three different viewpoints of vaping. The first point of view was an “adults’ view on vaping, especially administration.” The second point of view was the “health and law of vaping.” The third point of view was “students involved with vaping and how they felt about.”

When asked about his opinion on the decision to close bathrooms, Valente shared that he has mixed emotions on it. Valente believes all bathrooms should be open “because it is a right to go to the bathroom, not a privilege.” He believes the solution to this problem is “more policing of bathrooms and think[s] [they] need more teachers to go into bathrooms.” Valente has noticed that students lack “interpersonal skills” and “are looking for approval.”

Elisee Pompilus has the role of a building monitor, and along with other responsibilities as well. One word he uses to describe the situation is “unfortunate” and expressed that it has been  “overwhelming for [him] too. Bringing a dozen guys down and having to search people…it is not a thing that [they] want to do.”

His advice to help prevent it is “for kids who are doing what’s right, should hold their friends accountable and recognize how it is affecting everyone.” Pompilus has heard students claiming they are “bored” which is partly why they are skipping class and so he thinks they need to find a way to keep both “boys and girls engaged.”

He also shared that as a football coach, he is “always telling [his guys] that people do not see you as an individual but see who you represent…” which includes telling them to treat the school and others “as you would in your home and your friends home.” Moving forward, he emphasized that he will “constantly be pushing the message.”

In addition, Pompilus wants to start the new year of 2020 right by “working on getting some groups for young men and women to talk deeply. You guys are at the age where your bodies are changing…sometimes when students haven’t had an outlet to get their voice across, it turns into doing something to get attention, but doing those types of things come with consequences. [He is] trying to help get them to express themselves in a healthy way and in a way that [they] see their voice is heard and adjust to constructive criticism.”

The administration is doing their best to come up with a more effective solution that is in both the students’ and staff’s best interest, ultimately leading to opening bathrooms soon.

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