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Schools bar students from graduation ceremonies for senior pranks

As senior pranks grow more daring, school officials are resorting to punishing students by banning them from graduation ceremonies.

June 17, 2012|By Matt Stevens, Los Angeles Times
  • A pond at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies was discolored by soap in a senior prank last year.
A pond at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies was discolored by soap… (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles…)

A lamb tied to a post, a peanut butter smearing session and a drive-by water balloon attack are sure signs that it's that time of year again.

For years, graduating seniors have tried to leave their mark by plotting the perfect prank. But as the schemes have escalated in complexity and daring, school officials are coming down increasingly hard, banning whole groups of students from graduation ceremonies because of stunts that went too far.

At Heritage High School in the Bay Area town of Brentwood, more than 50 students were suspended and banned from walking at their graduation ceremonies, according to officials with the Liberty Union High School District. They say students painted "2012" on a lamb, tied it to a post, stole school banners, and, after pouring paint on the ground, ran around campus with their feet covered in washable paint.

At C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento, about 30 students were barred from the stage after they spray-painted graffiti, glued locks and threw eggs throughout the campus. They also smeared peanut butter on door handles and hand rails.

The peanut butter presented the biggest problem, a district spokesman said, because students with peanut allergies had to stay home from school. One unlucky student had to visit a doctor.

"No one is saying that these aren't good kids," Sacramento City Unified spokesman Gabe Ross said. "But when the mistake rises to that level, we owe it to kids to teach them that there are repercussions."

With Los Angeles Unified schools set to end instruction Tuesday, district officials in a statement discouraged "all students and graduating students from engaging in any individual, non-school-sanctioned activities that have the potential to create a disruption to the smooth operation and safety of their schools."

But not all administrators have leveraged graduation as punishment. A Carson charter school principal, for example, had another option available.

When a group of seniors performed a "drive-by water ballooning of underclassmen" at New Millennium Secondary School, Principal Kim Irons said administrators warned seven seniors that they might be barred from walking the stage.

But after students and parents balked at the punishment, Irons said she decided to have students miss graduation night at Disneyland instead.

"The graduation ceremonies are not for them, they're for their families," Irons said. "We didn't feel it would be an appropriate thing to punish the families of these students for something the students did when we still had grad night, which was a student-centered thing."

New Millennium held its first-ever graduation on Thursday. Irons said the school will "absolutely" work to ensure a similar prank doesn't strike campus next year.

matt.stevens@latimes.com

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