The Break-in at the Cardinal City Theatre

By Jasmine Toolan and Julissa Chia

On Sunday September 11th, 2022, some people broke into the campus, into the SBHS theater, and caused severe damages that might affect future performances of our students.  

The stage was splattered with paint on the floor, and the backdrop they use for the performances was ripped and splattered with paint. One of the rooms used to store the drums for the band was tagged with graffiti on its doors.  Art supplies were thrown out of cabinets and damaged. The backup light board was thrown off the balcony. If the theatre is able to put on another show, there is a possibility that their main light board, which is not in the greatest condition, could shut off at any second during a performance. 

There is a cabinet that the theater uses for flyers and such. Most of the equipment was tampered with. 

 “They either broke it all, took it all, threw it all. It’s all gone,” Theatre advisor Mrs. Parker said. 

 The cabinet will have to be restocked. 

“[They] tagged the backdrop, ripped the backdrop, which is a really big problem because what that backdrop is made of is stretched muslin which is kind of like canvas but way more expensive because canvas is cheap,” Parker said. 

Everything was taken down after the incident to prevent further vandalism.“It’s too much money to lose. And if we lose that stuff, we can’t do a show,” Parker said. 

While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen damage like this done to our campus, it certainly had an emotional impact on our theatre students and the admin in charge of the theatre department.  

“It was a sense of disappointment because this year has been very unique. Even before COVID, we re-painted the whole school with the colors red and tan, and there was great pride in that,” vice principal Dr. Stephon Brown said. “We saw less vandalism because before there was a lot of graffiti but after that, there was very minimal graffiti, very minimal destruction.

Returning back to school after COVID and quarantine has been difficult for some of the students to settle, as there’s more destruction and vandalism around campus than before.  

“After COVID this year, even last year wasn’t as bad because all the wildness seemed to have started this year. This year has just exploded with the extensive graffiti and destruction,” Brown said. “I was quite disappointed, you know it’s not just our students, but they’re coming in and having a field day on campus and doing silly stuff.” 

The Theatre Club will be raising their own money to replace anything broken or stolen. Neither the school nor district will provide for these expenses.

“I don’t know if the district would be paying for that. If they would pay for some of it, it wouldn’t be for all of it,” Principal Anna Sosa said. 

“The school doesn’t give us any funding. All the money in our account we raised on our own. I’ve seen the money we have and we spend thousands of dollars a semester for shows,” treasurer Angelina Waterson said.

This situation bothers the theater students who had to experience these damages and clean up a majority of it.

“They ripped a hole in the backdrop, they stole a fan, and some stuff in our storage. We painted over the backdrop. The hole was fixed…I was disappointed,” senior Rachelle Hutto said. “Why take time out of your day to destroy something that only does good? We don’t hurt anyone or bother anyone; we do our shows and give back to our community through art and for them to go in there and ruin that for us is embarrassing on their part.” 

For at least 13 years, unknown men have entered the theatre speaking of changing out seats and getting the theater ready for renovations. However, they will not speak to anyone else, including Mrs. Parker. For a while there was speculation that these men have keys, but Mrs. Parker noticed that when kids go in and out of the doors, they don’t always latch correctly, making it easy for anyone to enter the building without permission or supervision. This continues to this day. These unlocked doors were an easy access for those students to break in and damage the theatre. 

“And [a student] came in through this door here and went to get something out of the storage room. The door wasn’t latched behind her. People don’t check that. I don’t think it’s a key thing. I think it’s that we’re opening and closing too many doors and we’re not careful about closing them, which is why I want some of the doors to have dead bolts on them,”  Parker said.

Hutto, who’s been a student here at San Bernardino High School, and has been a part of theatre for the last four years, is eager to know why circumstances like this weren’t addressed to the school, as others would have been if it were to include a different extracurricular. 

“Our school prioritizes sports, and don’t get me wrong, I love singing for them and doing stuff for the school, but it is not fair that we have to pay for everything ourselves. Yeah the school helps, I guess, but for the most part we make our own profit, clearly we’re not well funded by the school. If it were sports, and someone were to trash the football field and mess up the nice grass or turf, they would have made it a big deal. I just feel like they don’t take us seriously and it’s not fair,” said Hutto.   

Hutto stands with the rest of her classmates in the theatre department as to why they aren’t treated as equally as any other sport in this school would. 

“I’m graduating soon, so I guess this year it’s not really my problem anymore, but I wish this school could just be like back in the day when people cared,” said Hutto. 

One of three vandals had been identified as a SBHS student. 

“We do know the three that had been identified. From what I hear, I don’t know if it’s students or other individuals. Students have brought some footage, video tapes, but we can’t tell who they are. So it does seem to be more than the three kids,” Sosa said. 

Currently, the SBHS theater is waiting for the district to send the safety department appraiser to estimate the damage expenses. That could also determine more discipline for the student vandals. 

“I would like to share a message to our students that it’s very disheartening to hear that at least one or more of our students were involved in this. Our students put their heart and soul into theatre. My message to students is to have pride. We want to have some nice things on our campus. We want our campus to be beautiful and to seem beautiful to our community. Please take care of what we have,” Sosa said. “And when you see something, say something. Please come forward and let us know so we can discipline those who need to be disciplined because it’s not fair. It’s especially not fair for all of the students who are part of theatre who look forward to putting on a great show for parents, the community, and for peers. To have that destroyed in an hour or two, that’s really shameful.”

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