The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Monday, June 18, 2007

Senior Prank Gone Bad

This has been a very interesting week in our school district. My son is a senior and will be graduating this Friday. Since he had no final or Regents exams, he went to work last Saturday (he works at a camp in Pennsylvania). Before he left, he contributed $5 to a "senior prank" which involved placing 100 alarm clocks in the school, all set to go off at 9:15 am on the last day of classes. What he didn't know was that the prank involved breaking into the school on Sunday night to hide the clocks. Well, that's when things started to go bad. The kids set off an alarm, the police showed up, and when they saw alarm clocks duct taped to the walls, they had to call the bomb squad. In the end, 19 seniors were arrested (those that were in the building as well as the "lookouts") and they are being charged with a felony. Their day in court is today. These students will graduate but they are not being permitted to attend graduation ceremonies. An additional 40 students (in a class of 215) who financed the prank (including son #1) must perform 5 hours of Community service (cleaning the schools under the supervision of the custodial staff) in order to earn back the privilege of attending graduation.

Now I have mixed feelings about the way the school district is handling this. They have very clearly drawn a line in the sand and will not back down from these decisions. While everyone knows that this was an incredibly stupid thing to do, even the administration has admitted that they never intended this to be about bombs. And while the police had no choice but to bring in the bomb-sniffing dog, I'm not sure the students should be charged with a felony. I don' think that will stick once they go to court today, but I think it was a bit heavy handed. And as for my son and his cohort, the original statement was that they would be required to do "community service," which my son was perfectly willing to do in Pennsylvania. Having them clean the schools smells more like punishment than community service. These kids were buying into something far more innocuous and are being punished for something that was really out of their control. He is coming home for the day to "do his time," but he has made it clear he is doing this for his grandmothers. My mom is coming up from Florida for graduation and my mother-in-law (who is dying) will certainly want to see the photos.

All of this was, of course, reported in the local paper, but we also got space in the New York Times over the weekend. Unlike the local paper, the NY Times got it right. These events are a commentary on "these times," and the aftermath of Columbine and Virginia Tech. That forced the administration to draw a line in the sand and watch students and families line up on both sides of the line. Two friends of son #1 are among those arrested. I feel for them and their families. I hope all goes well today when they appear before the town judge.

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