Almost a year after Samantha Colborn had her brand new Yamaha alto saxophone stolen from a band room at Semiahmoo Secondary, the theft is still a sore point with herself and her parents.
It didn’t put a stop to her progress in music – Samantha, now in Grade 9, and also a Grade 9 Royal Conservatory piano student, currently plays lead sax in two jazz bands at the school.
And while her mom Chris says finding $1,600 to buy a replacement Yamaha put a dent in the family finances, that hurdle has long been overcome.
What isn’t so easy to get past is what they view as the unsympathetic attitude of the school administration – and what they say is the school’s unwillingness to accept any responsibility for the thousands of dollars-worth of instruments left daily in the school’s busy band rooms.
School district spokesman Doug Strachan confirmed Wednesday that schools do not assume responsibility for any personal property that goes missing. Board policy dictates that insurance to cover any loss or damage is up to the owner.
It’s policy that Colborn and her mom want other band students – and parents – to be aware of, along with the lack of security at schools.
“”Their attitude was ‘we haven’t had an instrument go missing in a decade’,” Chris said, adding that administration staff have told her they wouldn’t consider installing security cameras in the band rooms, because it would “take away from student learning.”
One of Samantha’s friends had her trumpet stolen in March, they added.
“It was a brand new trumpet that she left in the band room, and in the space of three hours it was gone.”
Strachan told Peace Arch News that while the band room is offered as a place to store instruments, the decision to do so is ultimately up to the individual student.
“There’s no expectation that students will put instruments in lockers or the storage area or take them home,” he said by email. “Students choose.”
But Chris said students end up leaving their instruments in the school band rooms because they can’t carry them around to all their classes.
“What are you going to do, take your saxophone to phys-ed?” she said.
She suspects the problem is district-wide.
For Samantha, who wanted to go to Semiahmoo because of the music program even though she lives outside of the catchment area – her mom used to play saxophone in school bands there, too – it was a sour note to start her first year.
“It was Dec. 17, the last day before the winter break. Pretty much everyone leaves their instruments overnight in the band room so I left it there on the Thursday night, and when I came back Friday it was gone. It was quite a surprise.”
Band teachers Kevin Lee and Dagan Lowe were very sympathetic, she said.
“Mr. Lee was very helpful – he took me through all the band rooms and practice rooms to make sure someone hadn’t moved it.”
“They can’t watch over the instruments – they’re busy teaching classes,” Chris said.
Theorizing that someone had taken Samantha’s sax home by accident and lent her another saxophone over the winter break and meanwhile Chris contacted the Semiahmoo Music Society.
“They sent out an email to everybody to look out for the sax,” she said.
“When I got back in the New Year it was still gone,” Samantha said. “I talked to the school but they wouldn’t do anything for me.”
After further discussion with the administration, they said, Samantha was allowed to have a second locker where she keeps her sax and her friend keeps her replacement trumpet.
“This year they didn’t want to give me another locker again – they’re telling me that if there are any more students coming to the school, I’ll have to give it up.”
But she’s not taking any chances on letting her instrument case blend in with any of the others in the band room, she said.
“This time my case has bright pink duct tape on it,” she said.
– with fiiles from Tracy Holmes