Pulling fire alarms no longer an innocent prank

DOWNEY - Downey High is bolstering its efforts to crack down on on-campus crime such as pulling fire alarms, a federal offense that has sent as many as five students to jail within the past two weeks.Disciplinary problems have gotten out of control at the high school, particularly with the school's fire alarms. Administrators at Downey found an effective solution to catch perpetrators "blue-handed," by applying blue dye on alarms throughout the campus. When the alarm is pulled, administrators, teachers and staff can now easily pinpoint the culprit since the dye leaves visible stain marks on fingers. "This has been going on within the last three weeks," said Assistant Principal John Baker. "It was the same fire alarm in the upstairs [D. Mark Morris Hall]. There is a code not only with Downey Police but with the school, and it is illegal to pull fire alarms when there is no fire." More noticeable problems involve vandalism of school property and widespread graffiti across the campus. Graffiti in the first floor boys' restroom of the Margo Hoffer Hall, which houses Downey's math and science classes, resulted in removal of all mirrors in the restroom. Teachers in the D. Mark Morris Hall also complained of graffiti on their classroom doors, with a similar situation occurring in the school's foreign languages building. Vandals had allegedly tagged the doors of several social sciences and foreign languages teachers. Recent tagging of the school's brand-new greenhouse, a staple for botany and other life science classes, infuriated administrators and students alike. Principal Tom Houts said he was tired of the rampant vandalism and warned via PA system to the entire student body on Monday of the severe consequences that will arise. Houts made a public announcement to teachers, students and staff that three students from Downey High and another from Columbus High had been caught over the weekend vandalizing school property. Houts said all four students will be sent to jail for the felony. Downey students have expressed disapproval at their peers' poor judgment for making the school atmosphere less wholesome. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, said the vandalism on campus is unacceptable. "The tagging [at school] is completely inappropriate, especially on the greenhouse," the student said. "The school would not have to enforce these measures if only people thought about the consequences that would result from such actions more carefully." Another student said he was upset with fire alarms frequently disrupting the learning environment. "The alarms would go off almost every day in one week," they said. "How were we supposed to know if there was no real fire or danger? My teacher would lecture our class about behavioral problems, even though they knew we were not the culprits. I do not understand how we as a school need to be blamed for other people's poor decisions."

********** Published: December 16, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 35