Letter to the Editor: Response to Sept. 18 Editorial

Susan Copeland, Guest Writer

As I was reading the September 22, 2021 editorial board conversation regarding the appropriateness of the response to the “Devious Licks” challenge and the damage to school property in the restrooms by administration, I was a bit surprised with what they were writing.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines vandalism as the: willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property.  Synonyms: deface, trash

In the Kansas legal system: vandalism is located under the category of crimes against property, called Criminal Damage to Property and it states:

(1) Knowingly damaging, destroying, defacing or substantially impairing the use of any property in which another has an interest without the consent of such other person; or(2) damaging, destroying, defacing or substantially impairing the use of any property with intent to injure or defraud an insurer or lienholder.

(b) Criminal damage to property if the property:

(1) Is damaged to the extent of $25,000 or more is a severity level 7, nonperson felony;

(2) is damaged to the extent of at least $1,000 but less than $25,000 is a severity level 9, nonperson felony; and

(3) damaged is of the value of less than $1,000 or is of the value of $1,000 or more and is damaged to the extent of less than $1,000 is a class B nonperson misdemeanor.


To me, what is happening at the high and middle schools, is a violation of this law.  Students who are engaging in this behavior are willfully destroying, defacing, and impairing the use of school property. Due to the expense of clean up, replacement of stolen/broken items, repair to the walls, and persons hired to deal with clean up and repair, it will cost the school district more than $1,000.00, (repeatedly as it is happening repeatedly), so it will be a felony. A felony can land a person in jail for more than a year.   

One particular statement, “Helping students genuinely care about school by making it something worth attending…” stood out to me. I am not sure what is precisely meant by this comment. Are you saying that there is nothing worthwhile at MHS? Are you saying hanging in the restrooms is more worthwhile than attending classes at MHS?  In addition, do you think the school district should not have students charged with vandalism when they commit vandalism? Do you believe, for whatever reason a school not worth attending, should let students commit crimes with no consequence? 

When a person makes the decision to act in a particular manner, they also choose the consequences which can be handed down by a court. Students under the age of 18 will be charged as minors and have their records sealed. If the student(s) are over 18, they are an adult in the eyes of the law and should be dealt with accordingly. 

Also, where was the concern for students with disabilities when others were squirting soap all over the floor and putting towel dispensers in toilets?  Some of the students with disabilities have limitations in their ability to walk or balance themselves and soap on the floor could make this a very dangerous situation for them. Did you stop to think about what would happen to the school district if a student had fallen on the soap on the floor and was seriously hurt?  The district would have been sued for a huge sum of money to be paid for with tax dollars. 

My question is, what was administration supposed to do?  Let students engage in this criminal behavior until they grew tired of doing it?  At no point in your piece to you offer any alternatives to what administration did to stop the vandalism. I can think of one, hire people to stand in the restrooms to make sure no one causes destruction of school property. This would keep all restrooms open and anyone who engages in misbehavior taken care of legally.  I do not like to hear people complaining, about people doing the best they can do in a bad situation to stop destruction and protect students in their charge, without helping find an answer. 

It is not until the last 2 paragraphs of this piece that you put the “blame” on the right group of people, the students engaging in this behavior.  It does not matter why they are doing it, they are not children who do not know right from wrong, they are youths who know they are doing the wrong thing, by choice, and costing the district and taxpayers of Manhattan and Riley County money that should never have to be spent on this type of destruction without consequences for those who do it. 

The administration at the high school buildings did all they could to stop the vandalism before they started to close the restroom for student use. There were many people involved in supervising and checking in the restroom in order to stop what was happening. Closing them was not their first step to stop this, it was after several requests for people to stop before closing them down. I tip my hat to Mr. Dorst, Mr. Holloway, Mr. Myers, Mr. Jimenez, and Ms. Walters for working tirelessly to take care of this situation. I thank the security team and SRO officers for doing all they could do to stop this.  Last, but not least, I thank all the members of the custodial staff who had to clean up those messes day after day. It is you who made the biggest impact on keeping students safe and able to use restrooms in spite of some students behaviors.