May 10, 2006

Theft and Vandalism

Bad news to report today. I was on the mountain for our photo shoot (see post from a couple of days ago). I was psyched, we had a group of volunteers climbing the tower, some for the first time. The students were psyched to mug for the camera, climb and belay each other. While I was setting up however I noticed that there were a few ropes missing. I figured Ted or Dave must have needed one for something and borrowed it. The yurt was locked and all appeared to be normal - except for the missing ropes.

When I returned to campus, however Dave, Ted and Cadyn hadn't taken a rope from the yurt. Strange. Then Dave remembered having seen a yellow rope in a tree behind Randall but he had assumed it couldn't have been one of ours. We went out back and checked it out closer however and sure enough, one of the tower ropes.

Not only was it one of our ropes but it was all tied and tangled up in the tree. At the time I was pretty upset about this and took it pretty personally so I'm glad I didn't post last night. Today I'm able to think about it a little more objectively.

On the one hand I suppose I shouldn't be suprised. I mean our job is to work with adolescents - who by definition test the boundaries. That's their job, right? If you look at it that way it's our job as adults to trust them while knowing at the same time we're setting ourselves up to get hurt.

Here's the thing that really gets me, it must have been someone who's been on a tower program. They had a key (the door wasn't open and there was no sign of forced entry), knew where the ropes were and knew enough to put everything back the way it was. So it was someone who I've personally worked with or instructed.

Someone who thought it would be funny (?), cool (?), clever (?), vengeful (?) to go up to the mountain, steal some ropes, then come back to campus, climb into a tree and trash one of the ropes. That part I guess I don't understand. So now I'm thinking without meaning to of everyone who I might suspect or don't completely trust. What a bad head space to be in when I'm trying to work really well with students!

So what should we do from here? Buy some new ropes I guess, move the gear to more secure storage, write up an accident / incident report. But all that is just an 'official' response. It doesn't salve my emotional wounds. Do I just chalk it up to the price of doing business in a high school? Talk about it in school meeting? Hide the evidence, pretend it never happened and put up a cheeful front?

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