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Residents seek solution to bus stop vandalism

 

Last updated 6/21/2007 at Noon



Donny Valentine and Jerry Kalman face the frustration of being good citizens, and so far, getting nowhere. The problem they face is frustration itself.

Since March, adolescents waiting for busses at 31948 Del Cielo Este in Bonsall have chosen the location to confirm their personal frustrations by smashing or stealing Realtors’ signs, littering the ground with homework papers and food wrappers and trampling plants. But worse, they attempted to destroy the Casa Del Cielo monument that distinguishes the entry to the condominium community and scrawled crude pornographic graffiti on a retaining wall.

Why is this happening, the two men wonder? Are adolescents coping with coming-of-age urges trying to appear grander than they are, and is it the frustration of growing up that emboldens them to choose evil over good? Are they asserting their emerging independence by acting out under cover of anonymity or, worse, power over the timid kids who surround them?

Whatever the reason, it is more than just the frustrating acts of kids. At this Bonsall bus stop it is bona fide vandalism.

Kalman and homeowner association president Valentine, who live in the condominiums, know the vandalism takes place between 6:30 and 7 a.m. when students wait to be picked up by Sullivan Middle School and Fallbrook Union High School busses. The two men have tried everything to stop the vandalism, including sending letters to residents of the condominiums whose children use the bus stop, but the futility of their efforts has left them frustrated.

Valentine first talked to kids at the bus stop, asking them to tell whoever is doing the damage to stop. “And, for a while, it did stop,” he said, but when it resumed on April 3, he appealed to the Bonsall Elementary School District and the Fallbrook Union High School District to get help with the problem.

It took repeated attempts to get a response, the men said, which in itself left both of them even more frustrated. It seemed to Kalman they were being ignored. So, the two men contacted the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, who sent a deputy out right away to open a case file and investigate.

By May 21, Bonsall superintendent Jeff Felix finally got word of the problem after playing telephone tag with Valentine. Felix says he sent a maintenance employee out to the site as soon as he learned of the vandalism.

“We appreciate being able to use the location and want to be good neighbors,” Felix said. He added that it is important to “jump on these things,” stating that the first step is hearing that it’s happening.

In this case, by the time the school maintenance department had matched and purchased paint to clean up the graffiti, the homeowner association had already painted it out, says Felix. If his students are identified as being responsible for the vandalism, however, he will question them.

Felix is familiar with problems like this. At a previous school, he stationed an employee at a bus stop to supervise. “I’ve

done it myself,” he said.

According to Chet Gannett, assistant superintendent of the high school district, his office has no record of receiving correspondence from Valentine, but he says, “We certainly want to cooperate to the extent that we can.” Principal Rod King also knew nothing about the notification, he says, then offered Valentine the use of a notebook he keeps that documents graffiti.

The school districts can choose to back away from the problem. Students are not the responsibility of a school until they step onto a school bus, says Gannett.

“The designated bus stop is not under control of the district, the bus is,” Gannet said. Although these school districts are technically not responsible for students until they board a school bus, it does not mean either district considers student behavior at a bus stop irrelevant. Both districts say they view defacing property serious offenses. Further, vandalism of private property is a violation of both the California Education Code and the Penal Code, which can result in suspension, expulsion, imprisonment and fines.

Valentine and Kalman plan to stop the vandalism. Valentine has been videotaping the location and will continue. “We will prosecute when we find out who is doing it,” he said. Until then, the frustration of dealing with adolescents who have no respect for others, let alone themselves, continues.

 

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