When do pranks and vandalism cross the line? There was an incident, several years ago, when one college teamís band dropped grass seed on their rivalís football field during the halftime performance. Later that winter, when the field grass had died, the rival schoolís emblem was seen growing in all its green glory across a large section of the field. That type of prank, whether pulled off by a rival or a disgruntled member of the home team, is relatively harmless - a few good laughs and then it passes. No lasting damage done.
This weekendís vandalism at the new Bangs High School was very much more than a prank, though. The damage caused by vandals, who as of Tuesday had not been identified, was very real and caused enough damage that school was actually canceled for a day so the mess could be cleaned up. Books and food were destroyed, damage was done to walls and ceiling tiles. Fires, which thankfully didnít grow large, were set. Bangs Superintendent Bill Foster said it was the worst case of vandalism heís ever seen.
Vandalism is defined as destroying or damaging property - maliciously. That means ill will is involved. It means there is a desire to harm another. This wasnít a prank that would lead to laughs once the dust settled. This was a deliberate act aimed at hurting the Bangsí schools. This wasnít hacking into the scoreboard of the stadium to change the score. It would appear that these were acts of anger and a total disregard for others - their property or their investment.
We see a lot of that type of behavior portrayed in the movies and in popular culture. I couldnít tell you the name of the movie, but it was something that I caught as I was flipping through the channels a few months back. There were fast motorcycles and lots of threatening behavior that involved weapons such as guns and knives.
I hadnít watched more than a couple minutes before I told Amy that it is garbage movies like the one we had on that do little more than fuel peopleís total disregard for one another. While I canít say that the knucklehead the Bulletin reported was riding his own motorcycle 131 miles per hour before he was pulled over last week had seen the movie, but his total disregard for himself and the travelers he was sharing the road with is exactly what you might expect from someone who embraced it.
The deliberate destruction of property that isnít yours comes down to the same line of thinking. Nothing constructive can come out of destruction like that. Thereís no economic gain for the vandal, no incentive to act as they have except for a set of misplaced values. Not that it excuses them, but many crimes have the possibility of profit as the motivation. Steal something and youíve got more than you began with. Itís wrong, without a doubt, but thatís an almost rational line of reasoning. With vandalism, there is no opportunity to gain anything. All that vandalism accomplishes is damage.
The scope of the damage means that felony charges are likely awaiting the person or persons who apparently manipulated a door mechanism that allowed them enter after the school was locked down for the night. Hopefully, the law enforcement agencies and our court system will see to it that those involved not only serve time for the damage they caused, but in some way perform restitution ó through community service, ideally with the Bangs ISD. While the total dollar value of the damage has yet to be determined, the effects of the vandalism may be felt beyond the checkbook.
One positive from the whole incident is the way the school staff and community were able to work together all day Monday to get the building ready for school to resume on Tuesday. While school staff and administrators sorted through the mess they faced cleaning, members of the community prepared a lunch for them, and later Monday a national retailer provided dinner. Itís not much of a consolation, but itís something positive to come from this crime that was totally senseless.
Bill Crist is associate publisher and general manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.