When you return to your locker, it’s wide open. Your heart sinks as you search frantically for your phone. Where could it have gone? Who took it?
Students and staff have been victims of thefts throughout the high school. However, there are plenty of methods to protect yourself and maybe even find your stolen item.
Junior Sabrina Pierre had her wallet and Converse sneakers stolen from her on two separate occasions, both from unlocked lockers in the Tappan Gymnasium locker room. According to Pierre, her wallet was eventually retrieved, and the school was helpful in the process.
“They notified me immediately that they had my wallet in the main office,” Pierre said.
Teachers have also been victims of thefts. Money, laptops, and other expensive items have been stolen from staff, according to Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason.
Sophomore Julianna Watson had Adidas Superstars stolen from her in the Tappan Gymnasium locker room. Despite having a lock on her locker, her lock was smashed and her sneakers stolen; she recommends getting a strong lock to protect your belongings.
According to Watson, the location of the theft made it especially difficult to pursue, although the school did pay attention to her report.
“I appreciate that they care about it if you get your stuff stolen,” Watson said. “But I think that because it’s a locker room, they can’t have security cameras, so there’s no way of catching a thief.”
Mason says cameras in the locker room are not feasible for obvious reasons. Even if cameras may help the high school’s administration find thieves, freedom and privacy are more significant issues.
“You would not want to be in the school where you felt like you were being watched all the time,” Mason said. “The town has very fundamentally said no, this is a philosophical thing. We believe that having cameras would change the nature of the school.”
Mason also said that second lunch has posed some risks as many students leave their backpacks in the classroom and the teacher may not lock the door. Furthermore, the Unified Arts Building saw some thefts recently due to students leaving backpacks outside of classrooms, but this practice was subsequently ended.
Mason says he, the deans and the headmaster have spoken to teachers about these issues and reminded them of how to prevent thefts. He also has advice for students about staying vigilant and keeping their property safe.
“Use your common sense. Don’t advertise when you’ve got something that’s very valuable,” Mason said. “Be aware of what you’re doing with things. Don’t share your locker combination with people, and there’s no reason to be carrying cash.”
School psychologist Dr. Matt DuBois said that reactions to being a victim of theft can vary from extreme to laid back.
“You want to make sure that you’re protecting yourself, but you’re doing it in a way that’s not impacting you negatively with your social relationships or financially or whatever,” DuBois said.
According to the Brookline High School Handbook, the punishment for one-time offenders is “suspension as determined by the administrator, loss of open campus for four weeks, counseling as recommended by the administrator, and possible referral to the Headmaster for further disciplinary action.” With more offenses comes more severe punishment. Each case of stealing differs, however, according to Mason.
Mason said the school’s goal is to stop what he calls “opportunity and motive.” He also stated, however, that the school aims to educate rather than punish harshly.
“Schools try to teach kids how to do the right thing,” Mason said. “We believe in second chances. We believe in educating people and showing people what is right, and that doesn’t mean everybody walks in here in ninth grade and is automatically doing the right thing all the time. If that was the case there wouldn’t be a school.”
DuBois says that putting a face to the victim is helpful tool to combat the temptation to steal.
“I think that it’s really important to know that you are stealing from a human being,” DuBois said. “This is important in helping that person understand the potential impacts that their behavior has.”
In addition to real reports, Mason says that sometimes reports of thefts are mistaken. For example, a student may have lost an item rather than gotten it stolen. The school does take all reports seriously, however.
Mason said that in comparison to other schools, the number of thefts in the high school is not enormously high. Despite the safety of the high school, thefts still occur because students leave their stuff unsupervised.
Mason hopes these preventive measures don’t suggest that thefts plague the high school.
“Don’t mistake the fact that we’re talking about these things and making you aware of these things as indication that this is a huge problem in the school,” Mason said. “It’s a problem in society. Use common sense, protect yourself.”