Bentonville High School hopes to eliminate toilet vandalism

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BENTONVILLE — Vandalism in the boys’ bathrooms at Bentonville High School has “spinned out of control” and the school district is taking further action to help prevent it, according to an official.

Facilities manager Paul Wallace was asked about the matter at the school board’s last meeting on June 21.

Mirrors, soap dispensers, toilet paper dispensers and electric hand dryers are among the items that have been damaged or destroyed, with ‘probably 98%’ of vandalism occurring in boys’ bathrooms, as opposed to those of girls, Wallace said.

“They even ripped a door off a hinge. I couldn’t do that with a crowbar,” he said.

Over the past two years, the district has spent $40,500 repairing bathrooms at Bentonville High; this summer, the district is spending an additional $150,000 to upgrade them, according to district communications director Leslee Wright.

Last fall, schools across the country reported bathroom vandalism following the so-called ‘Devious Licks’ challenge, which encouraged students to damage school property and post videos of it on Tik Tok.

Vandalism in bathrooms at Bentonville High School, however, has been a problem for four to five years, Wallace said.

There are 15 boys’ toilets on campus, not including the teachers’ toilets. All of the boys’ bathrooms have been damaged in recent years, Wright said.

West High School is also seeing vandalism, but not at Bentonville High’s level, Wallace said. Bentonville High School is larger, with 2,975 students compared to West High’s 2,155 students as of May 1, according to district enrollment figures.

The district is making some modifications to combat the problem, installing anti-vandalism elements. In three bathrooms, for example, the five ceramic sinks are being removed and replaced with a three-person hand-washing station, Wallace said.

“We’ve installed over 80 vandal-resistant faucets in the last three or four years,” he said.

The bathrooms don’t need mirrors, but the district is replacing some that were destroyed with vandal-proof mirrors, he said.

Principal Jack Loyd visited classrooms to speak to students about the issue, and school resource officers increased their patrols in hallways, Wallace said.

There have been instances where students who vandalized have been arrested and the school charged families for the costs of the damage, he said.

Wright said 14 students were disciplined.

“The vast majority of our students are disappointed with what they saw happening in their toilets,” she said. “Some have even gone so far as to launch a social media effort, imploring students to help stop the damage. They are proud of their campus and want it to be a welcoming environment for all students.”

Board member Mike Swanson asked Wallace what the motivation for the vandalism might be. Wallace said he was unsure, noting that he only dealt with repairing and replacing items.

“I never destroyed a bathroom because I knew what would happen when I got home,” Wallace said.

Jennifer Faddis was the board member who questioned Wallace on the matter at last month’s board meeting. She said she appreciated his answer.

“I know it’s a concern. Students have spoken about it, parents have spoken about it. But I just wanted to hear from you,” Faddis said, speaking to Wallace. “It’s not something we don’t address.”

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