The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

Best of SNO Stats
Publication Tips
We'll be the first to admit that getting your story published on Best of SNO is hard. We receive over 100 submissions per day, and only about 15 percent are selected for publication.

There are multiple factors that come into play when deciding if a story is Best of SNO-worthy. From engaging writing and unique angles to well thought out multimedia elements, more considerations are made than it might look.

If you're having a hard time achieving that Best of SNO distinction, check out our past newsletters to get a better idea of the type of content we're looking for.
March 21, 2024
January 26, 2024
November 16, 2023
March 1, 2023
January 10, 2023
November 1, 2022

‘Shame on you’: LHS custodians bear brunt of ongoing vandalism

Vandalism remains a significant issue at Linganore High School (LHS). On a daily basis, students destroy school property by drawing profanities in the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms and on school desks, stuffing items down toilets and urinals, destroying the toilet paper holders, leaving trash in classrooms, leaving gum in desks and many more daily occurrences.

LHS is not alone in dealing with this uptick in vandalism. School vandalism has been rampant across the state.

In October 2023, antisemitic, hate-based graffiti was found at two Montgomery County schools. This was not the county’s first time dealing with high-profile vandalism. On October 20, 2023 a student found swastikas, inappropriate words and a stick figure firing weapons in a boys’ bathroom at Chevy-Chase Elementary School.

Similarly, on October 27 of last year, a drawing of a swastika was found on the blacktop located at the basketball courts at Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda.

Story continues below advertisement

According to WBAL TV 11, in November, teenage vandals also broke into Hunt Valley preschool, leaving behind $250,000 in damages. These damages were so extensive that the preschool had to close, forcing hundreds of families to find childcare alternatives.

School vandalism has been a continuous problem at LHS, particularly since the Tik Tok trend “Devious Licks” found notoriety a couple years ago. In the past, LHS has made announcements and organized assemblies to attempt to address these issues, but the issue remains an ongoing problem that has not been mitigated.

These daily occurrences negatively impact the entire school community, from the custodians tasked with cleaning and covering the damage to the students who are unable to use a functioning restroom or feel discriminated against.

Howie Putterman, Coordinator of Athletics and Facilities at Linganore, explained a possible theory as to why students vandalize LHS facilities.

“Those who are vandalizing the school think that they are ‘hurting’ the school or the administration or teachers; however, the group that they are hurting most is the students and the custodians,” Putterman said.

Putterman explained how much of a hassle vandalism is to the hardworking janitors at LHS.

“Mr. Melvin, Mr. Troy and Mr. Randy [and the evening custodians] are the ones who are running all over the school and having to shut down rooms and having to clean up vandalism,” Putterman said. “It is truly unfair to them.”

Along with his daily work coordinating athletic events or working with the different athletic teams at LHS, Putterman described some of the daily tasks he does to prevent vandalism.

“I do my best whenever walking the halls to ask students if they have a pass or where they are supposed to be,” said Putterman. “I also, when out during lunches, will check the bathrooms for people loitering. Finally, I work hard to make sure that staff members, coaches and students understand that they are under adult supervision at all times.”

One of the measures Putterman takes is to ensure that all staff and coaches maintain supervision of students after school. Putterman explained the reason behind the announcements at the end of the day which state that all students must be under adult supervision.

“This [students roaming the building] was an issue after school, which is when I am often the one in charge,” Putterman said. “This is why the doors inside the building are now locked in so many places.”

Putterman explained how much of his time is wasted everyday as an educator working to prevent vandalism in the building.

“I spent almost all of December chasing down vandals, and this continues throughout the year,” Putterman said. “The amount of times the bathrooms get closed due to vandalism is unacceptable. There are any number of more effective things I could be doing with that time; I would much rather be spending that time to enhance the facility or the student experience here at Linganore.”

Students caught vandalizing school property, whether a bathroom, classroom or desk, may face consequences at LHS.

“If caught, not only are there school consequences ranging from detention to suspension depending on the severity of the vandalism, but students can be charged for the cost of repair or replacement as well,” said Putterman. “If appropriate, [criminal] charges could also be filed.”

Debbie Kettermen, an afternoon and evening custodian at LHS, detailed the typical types of vandalism she encounters daily while cleaning classrooms and bathrooms.

“[In] my boys’ bathroom, I have only two mirrors left,” Kettermen said. “They’ve broken the mirrors, busted the mirrors. The toilet paper holders, they tear them off the walls. They tear the doors off the hinges. Yesterday, I walked into a flooding bathroom because they shoved a ball and a sock in one of the urinals.”

Kettermen further discussed the vandalism issues she encounters in the girls’ bathrooms and how much of a hassle it is for custodial staff.

“They mainly write all over everything,” Kettermen said. “And, it’s not something easy to wipe off. It’s with white out. So the maintenance guys have to come up and re-spray, paint everything, [and] repaint everything, [since] we have to cover it up because it’s vulgar what they write in there.”

Kettermen explained how the non-stop affects how she stocks the bathroom. She now only supplies a single roll of toilet paper per stall because any all rolls will be thrown in the toilets by the end of the day. She sees this as a significant waste of school resources.

“They’ll take the toilet paper out of the dispensers and throw the whole roll in the commode,” Kettermen said.

Kettermen explained how the vandalism makes it difficult to do her daily tasks, and she spends a significant amount of her work day cleaning up vandalism.

“I have 18 classrooms to clean every night and four big hallways and stairwells, and I don’t have time to take two hours to clean a bathroom,” Ketterman said. “Eighteen classrooms is a lot. I mean, it takes away from the other work that I have to do, and it’s not fair to the teachers because they don’t get their classrooms cleaned right because of the vandalism that I have to clean up.”

[In] my boys’ bathroom, I have only two mirrors left. They’ve broken the mirrors, busted the mirrors [and] the toilet paper holders. They tear them off the walls. They tear the doors off the hinges.

— Debbie Kettermen

Linganore students themselves also feel the impact of the vandalism around school.

Sophomore Alex Pietanza explained how most of the bathrooms at LHS are not accessible to all students during the school day.

“Certain bathrooms are [unlocked] in the school, but the ones that are closest to us are always locked,” Pietanza said.

Pietanza believes staff members in the building could be doing better to prevent vandalism at LHS.

“Maybe more teachers knowing how long students are going to the bathroom and seeing different patterns of students that are supposed to be in class [could help],” Pietanza said.

Pietanza shared how recent instances of vandalism opened her eyes to the issue, as a member of the Linganore drama program.

Leading up to the school’s production of “Shrek,” the majority of the drama department’s set pieces for “Shrek” were demolished. Profanities [and racist words] were written all over the set pieces, and some were even destroyed.

Pietanza said there was vomit all over the set as well.

This was a major setback for the drama department whose tech crew worked hard to build the sets that would later be destroyed. This incident has also led to the D-wing doors leading to the performing arts classrooms to be locked during the school day, in addition to after school.

“Our program worked really hard to make those sets, and seeing them get destroyed, [it] was really eye-opening to see [this] happening at our school,” Pietanza said.

From a staff and student perspective, vandalism is still a huge problem at LHS that needs to be remedied.

Joseph Whipp, the Risk and Safety manager at Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) provided statistics for the extensive vandalism experienced across FCPS schools.

“Looking at the data for schools over the past three years, we have between 22-30 schools effected by vandalism, or about 35-55% [of schools]” Whipp said.

According to Whip, over the last three years, FCPS has had to repair between $55,000-$83,000 in vandalism-related costs.

Presently, FCPS is facing a huge budget crisis, with a $53 million budget shortfall for the 2025 school year. The FCPS Board of Education (BoE) has been forced to resolve the issue with significant cuts to teaching positions and programs, such as the Remote Virtual Program for students in 3rd – 8th grades.

If school vandalism continues at this pace, especially during the budget crisis FCPS is currently confronting, how can the issue be effectively addressed so as not to pose a further burden on the school system and the school community?

Kettermen had a message to share with the students responsible for the ongoing vandalism at LHS: “‘Shame on you,’ is what I’d like to say. ‘Shame on you,’ and I would hope they didn’t do this to their own bathroom[s].”

This story was originally published on The Lance on May 23, 2024.