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Senior pranks: School districts draw line between fun, vandalism

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She thought the students had put themselves in danger by riding along a busy thoroughfare. Traffic was disrupted. Drivers caught up in it, including some teachers, were late for work. In the principal's mind, the seniors had broken the "no pranks" rule, and she came down hard.

"But we didn't really see it as a prank. We saw it more as a senior send-off," says Sarah Pechumer, one of the 65 graduating students who participated. "It was harmless. It was arranged. It was legal."

And in the rowdy history of senior pranks, it was relatively benign. Recall the letter sent to parents at California's San Dieguito Academy in 2006, informing them that henceforth condoms would be distributed to students at all dances. Or the night at New York's Nyack High School, when seniors — with the blessing of their principal — arranged 1,000 school desks on a field to spell out "2008." Then, under cover of darkness, other pranksters (perhaps from the Class of 2009) re-arranged the desks in the shape of a giant penis.

Former students at one high school outside Hartford, Conn., still recall how their principal inadvertently sent them into hysterics after some seniors removed the plastic balls from the computer mice in a school lab.

The principal got on the intercom and began a lengthy speech about needing the "mouse balls" back — a result that even the students hadn't anticipated.

After a secretary interrupted him, he stammered and continued by asking for "the apparatus necessary for the computer mice."

"As long as it doesn't get out of control, I think it is healthy," says Utay, a therapist and clinical social worker in private practice in Manhattan. "It's something they look forward to after all the pressure — a chance to take back some of the control. It's rebellion against that pressure, empowerment. It marks the end of the high school experience."

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