Vulgarities and gang terms scrawled on trees, walls and buildings greeted students and faculty at Tokay High School as school began earlier this week.
“F___ Scraps” was written in black spray paint on about 75 percent of the school’s buildings sometime Monday evening, said Tammy Foley, principal secretary at the high school. “Scrap” is a derogatory term for members of the Sureño street gang, the rival of the Norteños.
The campus regularly experiences vandalism and the majority of the graffiti was removed by Tuesday afternoon, but district officials and campus employees said they are searching for ways to reduce the consistency of it. A history teacher at the high school, Joe Johnson, wants the district to consider leaving lights on the campus all night long to deter vandalism.
“I understand the mindset that the district is trying to save money by turning the lights on campus off at night, but those savings have to be offset by regularly having to clean up graffiti,” he said.
The debate on turning the lights off or leaving them on is constant, said Lodi Unified facilities and maintenance chief Art Hand, but the district is leaning towards keeping them off for now.
“One school of thought is that if you make it bright it will scare people off,” he said. “The other is that if you keep it dark they will have to bring their own lights in when they are vandalizing and people in the area will see them.”
The savings from keeping the lights off are not lost by having to do occasional graffiti abatement, Hand said. However, he did concede Tokay has been a more consistent target in recent years.
“Tokay has been a subject of substantive graffiti,” Hand said. “But the last few times it’s been more pornographic than gang-related.”
Previous taggings have been of genitalia and inappropriate words, he said.
When it comes to cleaning up the graffiti, the campus maintenance crew sands away and paints over the vandalism, Foley said. If the school can pinpoint who is responsible for the defacement, they will be given a bill and made to pay restitution, she said.
If the district cannot recover costs from the vandalism, it comes from maintenance and operational funds, said Tim Hern, chief business officer for the Lodi Unified School District.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.