What do you think about this scenario?
Mia has loved to draw since she was a little girl. It started with flowers and doodles on her classwork. Then, when she was 11, her dad was sent to jail and her mom was stuck working two or three jobs at a time to support Mia and her 9-year-old brother. Mia loves her mom and looks out for her little brother, but she is upset and blames her mom for her dad going to jail. Her pretty doodles started to turn into doodles of snakes and fire where spelling words should have been on the test. She started to write her name not in bubble letters, but in different designs, sharp angles. She’d write her name, her friends’ names on her arms and her legs, in permanent ink.
On her 13th birthday, her friends decided to “take her out” (i.e. cut school). To mark the special day, they went to a set of walls near the train tracks and her friends pulled out spray cans. They handed one to Mia and said, “Happy birthday.”
Questions for Discussion:
1. What do you think Mia should do? Do you think this is an easy or hard thing for her to do?
2. Do you know anyone, who, like Mia, loves art? What do you think is a good place for her to practice her art?
3. What do you think is the punishment for vandalism?
4. Mia seems to use art as an outlet for her sadness and frustration. What is your outlet?
5. If Mia chooses to tag a wall and is caught, how will her brother feel?
According to the California Vandalism Law, under Penal Code 594, the definition of vandalism is, "Every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts: defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material;
damages or destroys the real or personal property of another." Vandalism is recognized as the deliberate damage or destruction of public or private property, without the owner's permission.
In California, if a youth under the age of 18 possess an aerosol container of paint, they can be charged with vandalism, even if they haven’t used it.
First time vandalism charges with minimal damage (less than $400) is generally considered a misdemeanor, and comes with no jail time, fines, restitution, community service, and 3 years informal probation. Sometimes misdemeanors can be elevated to felony charges if there is a prior criminal record, gang involvement, or if it’s a hate crime.
If the damage is $400 or more, and the defendant has had a prior vandalism charge, then the charges could be at the felony level, with punishments of jail, formal probation, restitution, and community service.
Fines for vandalism charges could be anywhere from $400 to $5,000.
- In 2008, 37% of juvenile arrests were for vandalism. (OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book)
What Mentors Can Do to Help
If you notice that your mentee loves drawing, even if it’s happy things, help them find a creative outlet. Create a scrapbook together, bring scratch paper from work and start off your meetings by drawing out their perfect day, or their saddest memory, or even what they want to be in the future.
Like Mia, many of our mentees come from single parent households. If you notice that your mentee is having difficulty dealing with this, contact your Mentor Program advocate who can help by making a referral to their school counselor.
If you notice your mentee is drawing on tables while you’re trying to work on homework with them, mention it. They may not realize they are doing it. You can ask them why and offer them a piece of paper to doodle on instead. Provide them with the scenario that it would be upsetting if someone came to their house and started etching something into their table at home.
Talk with them about peer pressure. Ask if they have ever felt the need to do something they didn’t think was right because their friends asked them to. Find out how they handled the situation, how it made them feel. Talk with them…don’t judge their reactions, but see if you can help them come to a conclusion about doing the right thing the next time around.