Opinion Column

THE DUEL: Schools have right to protect property


In The Duel, 24 hours columnists David Eby and Kathryn Marshall battle over the issues of the day. Who's the winner this week? Fire us an email at van24feedback@sunmedia.ca.

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC - Using high-pitched noise to keep teens away from hangout spots - good or bad thing?

With all his talk of "rights" this week, David neglected to mention the rights of children to safe schoolyards that aren't littered with needles and broken beer bottles when they come to school in the morning, and people's right to protect their property.

The reality is that the Mosquito device works. After schools were told to turn their Mosquitoes off, several Vancouver schools were struck by vandalism. And who pays the price? Students pay by missing out class and playtime because their schools and playgrounds are unusable due to damage.

Read David Eby's column.

Taxpayers also pay a price. They're the ones who foot the bill for the clean-up, like the $15,000 worth of damage caused by vandals at John Henderson Elementary and the $3,000 worth of damage to the Kerrisdale Annex.

Money that should be put towards things like school trips and team uniforms now has to be put towards cleaning up broken glass and erasing graffiti.

It looks like the Vancouver School Board also agrees that Mosquitoes get the job done. After checking with the health authority and after a rash of vandalism, they've decided to turn the devices back on.

Do the Mosquitoes target young people? Of course, because let's face it, it's probably not soccer moms and elderly folk who are spending time loitering on school property in the middle of the night.

Do Mosquitoes emit a loud and unpleasant sound? Yes, because that's the whole point. It's supposed to deter loiterers, not attract them.

This isn't the first time noise has been employed to deter loitering. You'll often find loud classical music being played in transit centres and under bridges to deter gangs from using these spaces as hang outs.

It's a cost effective way to try and keep public spaces safe, but perhaps David would argue that this is discrimination against people with a strong dislike for Bach and Mozart.

I suppose there are other methods to get the job done, like building massive fences with gates that lock and hiring security guards to patrol the school grounds at night. But I don't think the "prison look" is a good one for schools.

City bylaws already prohibit loitering on school property at night, so the devices are designed to enforce laws that already exist.

People and institutions have a right to protect their property, within the law, against whomever they think is likely to damage it. If the Mosquito device works, and doesn't hurt anyone, banning it is the pointless triumph of political correctness over a real right.