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Should McClatchy High pranksters be allowed to graduate with their classmates?

McClatchy High prank turns dangerous; 30 banned from graduation ceremonies

Published: Thursday, Jun. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Jun. 7, 2012 - 3:33 pm

Seniors in C.K. McClatchy High School's class of 2012 tried to leave their mark on the school with peanut butter, spray paint, toilet paper and eggs, but their "senior prank" efforts turned dangerous and dozens of them have been banned from graduation ceremonies Friday.

About 30 students sprayed profane graffiti, wrapped toilet paper, pitched eggs and smeared peanut butter throughout the Land Park school's campus overnight Sunday as part of a senior prank. The extensive nature of the hijinks led to one student with a peanut allergy being sent to a doctor and others not being able to attend school.

"That was an immediate factor because I knew several of our students have peanut allergies," said McClatchy High Principal Peter Lambert.

He said he called students with peanut allergies and told them not to come to school until later, but not all of the students were spared. "One student with a peanut allergy did come in and had a bad allergic reaction."

The price tag on the prank, which will exceed $5,000, is another cause of worry for the already-struggling Sacramento City Unified School District, which has been hit with budget cuts.

Not only will the seniors involved be banned from walking in graduation, but Lambert also intends to seek restitution.

Lambert said he has involved McClatchy High's resource officer in his investigations, and the nature of the damage launches it into the vandalism category. Between 25 and 32 people in the nearly 500-member senior class are being investigated, Lambert said.

"If you're destroying property at the school and the dollar amount is so high that it takes several people to fix it, and the school is having to pay a lot of money, then it may go criminal," said Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Pettit.

A little more than a week ago, students at Foothill High School in the Twin Rivers Unified School District were caught spray-painting the outside of their school, along with dumping dirt and debris in its driveway.

Lambert and Gabe Ross, chief communications officer for the Sacramento City Unified School District, said the commencement ban at McClatchy is justified. Senior pranks have made headlines throughout the state and country in past years when they backfired or caused excessive damage.

In 2008, 17 students at Kennedy High School were barred from walking in graduation after their senior prank, which included pouring dye into a swimming pool and squirting shaving cream on floors. Five students at Elk Grove's Laguna Creek High School were suspended in 1999 and not allowed to walk in graduation after using washable chalk to write on walls and sidewalks and wrapping trees in cellophane.

Some pranks have led to serious legal action: In 1991, two Rio Americano High School seniors were arrested for felonies and 31 more received misdemeanor citations after their senior prank, which included crude sexual graffiti and toilet-papering the campus.

"For an incident where there is a crime committed on campus, there are a lot of things that the school could have done," Ross said. "They could have been expelled and they wouldn't have gotten their diploma. The goal is not to mar these kids for life."

Izzy Gardon, a graduating McClatchy High senior and a student member of the district's board of trustees, said some of the seniors involved are starting a petition to walk in graduation. Gardon, who didn't participate in the prank, called it a "slap in the face" to McClatchy High's custodians.

"These people work the hardest and get paid the least. Next year they'll work harder and get paid even less," he said.

Despite his feelings about the prank, Gardon said he has mixed thoughts on the punishment.

"The sad part is, I know everyone who participated in the prank and these are the kids who have been excellent students throughout their four years at McClatchy and they did a very silly and unfortunate thing," he said.

Gardon pointed to students who have used drugs and drunk alcohol who will still walk for graduation. He said he's unsure if it's fair for students who are known campus leaders to be banned from receiving their diploma on stage.

Lambert deemed the prank a "teachable moment," saying such actions would not be tolerated in college or the working world. He has met with most parents of students who were involved and said this is an emotional time for them.

Until McClatchy High's graduation ceremony Friday, Lambert said, he will continue to meet with students and parents to further investigate who was involved, regardless of their role in orchestrating the prank.

"What's clear is that the vast majority of students involved knew what else was going on and nobody said or did anything," Ross said.

Gardon said it's sad to see a time meant for celebration blemished by these events.

"I think we all feel that we're ready to let go and move on in our life, but we've had some fun times at our school and I think people just want to have one big, last one time. This was, for a lot of people, the last time of being a kid and doing something childish," he said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Andrea Gallo



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