Written by Jennifer Gao and Nikki Suzani
Throughout the course of January and February, several students have reported their valuables being stolen out of their lockers. The administration has taken measures to prevent future the s by closing down the locker rooms during physical education (P.E.) classes and early a er school. As a result of the lack of communication between students and the administration about the locker room closures, students have waited outside the locker rooms on numerous occasions until a custodian arrived to unlock them.
Sophomore Mallika Parulekar was a victim of the recurring locker room thefts. She knows at least two people who also had their valuables stolen and believes that there are many more out there. Her computer was stolen and is yet to be found. “Unfortunately, it was because my backpack wasn’t locked in my locker,” she said. The administration is working closely with the police to investigate this issue. According to Principal Kathleen Laurence, they are continuing to try and find out who stole the items. “We have the investigations that we do, and we use the tools that we have available to find the perpetrators,” she said. “We’re working to find out who is doing it.”
Many students are upset about the locker rooms being closed during P.E. Freshman Payton Dick lost her lunch time because the lockers were closed when she returned from P.E. “ [On February 22] after P.E., every door to the girl’s locker room was locked, and it took 15 minutes to get in, which went into lunch time,” she said. “If I had a class after that period, I would’ve probably been late.”
According to Laurence, the instances of students wait- ing outside of rooms for custodians to unlock them should not be occurring. “Their P.E. teachers should be walking in with them to unlock the locker rooms,” she said.
The administration didn’t send a Schoology message about the locker rooms being closed, causing confusion among students. “I think they probably should have put it on Schoology or [Titan Broadcast Network] somehow, to circulate it around because no one knows exactly why, and a lot of misconceptions are spreading about it,” sophomore Annabel Lee said.
Laurence apologized for not conveying the message to the public and said that it did not come to her mind.
Many students are pushing for teachers to ensure that the changes actually make the difference promised on paper. Freshman Sachait Arun believes that the teachers should be more aware of who is in the locker rooms when they’re locking them. “The thing is, sometimes I’m late because the coaches lock up and leave,” Arun said. “The students are the ones stealing during the school day, so closing the locker rooms when they’re still in there isn’t a very good idea.”
Parulekar believes that the administration’s decision to close the locker rooms in order to deal with these threats is viable, but there needs to be more done. “I think it’s good that the admin is taking precautions like locking the locker room during P.E.,” Parulekar said. “Additionally, I think we need cameras outside the locker room to see if anyone is leaving with a laptop suspiciously.”
According to Assistant Principal Jack Ballard, the administration is working with the district to install security cam- eras that would provide a better vantage point. “The ones that were built here and installed weren’t installed with the modern tracking patterns in mind,” he said.
Sophomore Audrey Xie believes that the best solution lies within the inner workings of the lockers, which some- times allow items to be stolen easily. “Maybe it’s time to look into locker renovations,” Xie said. “A person I know was robbed because their locker was bent, and even a er locking it, people could still reach in and take things.”
Even with the precautions that the administration has implemented, Parulekar believes that students should still be locking their valuables. “Everyone should remember to lock their backpacks in their lockers,” Parulekar said. “It doesn’t take that much time, and clearly it’s important.”
The Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) added that it’s best to stop the problem before it can occur. “If students leave items, they should be locked in a locker, and bikes should be locked on the rack,” a representative from the PAPD said. “Don’t leave items unattended or unsecured.” He added that they investigate crimes at school. “We, like every crime, follow all leads, process all evidence and conduct interviews,” he said.
Some students have found it difficult to report their already stolen items. “Since day one of P.E., [the teachers] have reminded us that they can’t do anything about it and can’t help us,” Arun said.
The PAPD said that the best way to report a theft is to go to a school administrator. Parulekar went through that process. “I went to the P.E. teachers, who told me to go to the office immediately,” she said. “I filled out a missing item form and talked to [campus supervisor Jorge] Sanchez about it.”
Others believe that the blame for valuables being stolen lies on the students’ shoulders for not locking up their materials properly. “I think that it is our own responsibility to lock our lockers,” Xie said. “The [administration] has provided us [with] a means to protect our belongings, and we just have to remember to use it.”
Laurence hopes that students will do their part to prevent thefts by locking laptops and cell phones in the P.E. lockers during class, watching out for other students’ belongings by reporting suspicious details and noticing when the locker rooms are not closed properly.