Senior pranks are as much a right of passage as getting your driver’s license or becoming eligible to vote and enlist in the military. When I was in High School, toilet papering the trees in front of the school was a favorite past-time. Now days, what once passed for immature fun and a time-honored prank has turned into something more sinister for some school officials. Parents in Clayton, Indiana are still steamed nearly a month after dozens of students were suspended and a custodian fired over a senior prank that involved posting thousands of press-and-stick notes inside Cascade High School.
The Indianapolis Star reports that students are no longer suspended. In fact, the school district lifted the punishment a few days after the prank, and the suspension will not be reflected on the students’ records. Custodian Kim Rouse also recently got her job back. Still, parents are calling for the resignation of Mill Creek Community School Superintendent Patrick Spray and Cascade High School Principal Cathy Tooley. Parents showed up at the school board meeting Wednesday evening with a signed petition calling for a change in leadership. Robert Canaday, whose son was one of the first who got suspended, said there were about 15 to 20 pages of signatures. “What parents are dedicated to do is to establish the right type of leadership,” Canaday said. “And right now, that doesn’t appear to include the principal and the superintendent.”
Parents said school administrators overreacted when they suspended six high school students after they posted 11,000 sticky notes last month in various places inside the school building as part of their traditional senior prank. They said the school went overboard after they fired Rouse the next day and suspended about 60 more students who protested in front of the school. A total of 68 students were suspended, Canaday said. He added that they still have concerns about Rouse, who lost 11 days of pay. And although she has her job back, the district’s punishment will be on her record permanently, Rouse said. “Financially, it hurt me pretty bad. I’m a month behind on my bills, and it minimized the food we could’ve had,” said Rouse, who was reinstated at Cascade Middle School. “I don’t feel like I was rightly punished for what they wanted to punish me for. I couldn’t understand why I got in trouble.”
In an earlier interview with The Star, Spray said it was “completely inappropriate” for Rouse to let students in to the building outside school hours. But students and Rouse said that wasn’t the case. A school board member, they said, gave them the key and authorization to get inside the building. At the school board meeting, Canaday said parents tried to discuss their concerns with Spray and the board members. But he said that effort was “by far, unsuccessful.” “The board did a stellar job ensuring that they did not receive any feedback, any input from the community,” Canaday said. “They would not entertain the discussion around the petition.”
This contradicts with what Assistant Superintendent Jill Jay said in an earlier interview with The Star. Last month, she said the district’s decision to lift the suspension on all students is the “first step in the healing process.” “I think what we want to do is move forward,” Jay said. “And in order to do that, there has to be listening on both sides.” But parents at the school board meeting feel differently. “They skirted the issue completely,” Canaday said.
I’m not sure removing the school’s administration is the answer, after all, it is incumbent upon those entrusted with the education of children to keep them safe and keep the learning environment safe. Having said that, the administration in this case clearly lacked any semblance of common sense. What the kids did was actually kind of clever, as far as senior pranks go, and despite having to clean up some paper…no damage was done. If the issue was letting students into a building after hours for purposes other than school-related, that may be a legitimate issue but the students were not at fault here and neither was the custodian. Kids will be kids and in this situation the administration in this school district made matters much worse than they ever needed to be.