Hungry vandals trash Kugluktuk’s high school
“If we had a functioning alarm, they wouldn’t be able to spend three or four hours inside the school"
An alarm system that works: this is what Gary Kennedy, the principal of Kugluktuk’s high school, wants installed inside the building he’s responsible for.
Kennedy wants to protect his school from a gang of hungry vandals who broke into the school on several occasions over the past three weeks.
The gang’s young members, aged 12 to 16, trashed the school’s classrooms, kitchen and library, surfed porn sites on the school’s computers and ate food reserved for the school’s breakfast program and other purposes.
The vandals appear to be determined and nearly unstoppable: they’ve pried their way into the school through windows, rammed their way in through the front door and used bolt cutters to break locks.
On one occasion, they used kitchen mitts to keep a window open so they could come and go as they wanted.
The identities of the young vandals are known, thanks to footage from surveillance cameras outside the school, although on Oct. 8 they wore coveralls to disguise their identities before they entering the school, where they stole shoes and food, and messed up the shop and the library.
Police detained one teenager, but have since released him back into the community.
Another was a high school student, but he’s not coming to school anymore, said Kennedy, or, at least, not during regular school hours.
The alarm system at the school hasn’t worked for more than a year, Kennedy said.
And it hasn’t been fixed.
That’s despite repeated requests to Nunavut’s department of Community and Government Services.
Kennedy calls the lack of government attention to the need for an alarm system “long and ridiculous.”
“If we had a functioning alarm, they [the vandals] wouldn’t be able to spend three or four hours inside the school,” Kennedy said.
After the vandals wreaked havoc and left, Kennedy arrived in the morning to find shocking scenes.
Last month, in the library, which also contains a cultural display, Kennedy found mannequins dressed in Inuinnait traditional clothing laying trashed on the floor, along with books that had been thrown helter-skelter off shelves. The vandals also shredded some paper and plugged in the glue gun to try to light the paper on fire.
A sexually explicit image from a pornographic website was left open on the librarian’s desktop computer.
On other occasions, Kennedy has found a track of empty yogurt containers, cereal, and leftover pizza crusts led out of the kitchen.
As for what motivates the repeated break-ins, Kennedy points to a combination of substance abuse, poor parenting and food insecurity.
Although an alcohol education committee has been in operation in Kugluktuk since 2007, the public signs of alcohol abuse, such as drunken people staggering around town or others who are passed out by the side of the road, remain visible.
The drinking and drug use, which often take place at gambling parties, leaves many families cash-poor and unable to afford food for their children.
Buying booze and drugs, both many times more expensive in Kugluktuk than in southern Canada, also mean many kids end up unsupervised and starving.
So they’re more than ready to break into the unprotected local school, where they know they can eat and play on computers.
Some youth have turned to sniffing gasoline, which resulted in the recent death of a boy.
That death prompted by the hamlet and other organizations to make sure all gas around town is kept under lock and key.
It’s not the first time Kennedy has seen the school damaged. In 2009, a group of young vandals also entered the school where they smeared mustard and maple syrup, soda pop and garbage over its newly-waxed floor.
But this year, the extent of the vandalism is even more shocking to Kennedy.
That’s because the school year is off to a good start otherwise, with both enrolment and attendance up, he said.