What should Riverside-Brookfield High School do in the wake of last week’s homecoming senior prank, which got way out of hand and ended up costing thousands of dollars in damage and cleanup costs?
Beyond the suspensions, disciplinary measures and criminal charges meted out against those responsible, what can be done to make sure this prank doesn’t go overboard again in the future?
There are a few approaches the school district could take to this situation, ranging from an all-out crackdown and prohibition against the long-running tradition to creating a school-sanctioned event that is tightly controlled but would take away the thrill for the students.
Perhaps the punishments handed down in this instance will serve to deter a repeat performance, but there will likely never be a guarantee that a student or small group of students set on vandalizing the school can be prevented from giving it a go. Perhaps more security cameras outside of the school can be installed. But cameras — including one pointed directly at the site where most of the vandalism occurred — didn’t prevent it this time.
Here’s the thing: The senior prank has been a relatively harmless exercise each year and one where there have been unspoken ground rules that both school officials and students have honored. It happens Thursday night, a school administrator is there to observe and the impact is minimal. Toilet paper and shaving cream.
There’s really no reason, in our view, that such an event can’t continue in the future. But this year also proved that no one can take it for granted any longer.
Apparently this year, seniors felt they needed to separate themselves from their predecessors. This was unnecessary and in the future may be prevented by officials and perhaps groups like the RB Student Association sending out the message that such actions won’t be tolerated and that anyone acting outside the agreed-upon ground rules will face disciplinary action.
An all-out prohibition won’t end the practice. It will only end in the school being completely unable to track when these kinds of events might happen and will encourage those with grudges against the school or particular administrators to act out in order to prove a point. It will also result in the kind of zero-tolerance school discipline that takes innocent pranks and blows them up into crimes.
The RBHS administration in recent years has shown sensitivity and understanding when it comes to dealing with the emotional and sometimes immature decision-making process of adolescents seeking to find their voices. Kids will be kids, after all.
But last week also showed there are those who will take advantage of this understanding and exploit it for ends that aren’t so benign. Those acts need to be dealt with as they were last week. If you commit a criminal act, you should be charged criminally.
It’s not criminal to act like a teenager, however. Whatever way the school chooses to deal with the senior prank in the future, we hope it fosters the kind of mutual respect seen in years past. And, kids, you need to be part of that equation as well.