More than two dozen seniors at an Indianapolis high school, including the class valedictorian, were banned from graduation ceremonies after a senior prank gone wrong caused significant damage to the school’s campus, school officials say.
According to WRTV, as punishment, the students from Crispus Attucks High School were not allowed to walk in their graduation ceremony and pick up their diplomas. In a statement by Indianapolis Public Schools, officials noted that the students “vandalized various areas of the school building, a local and national historical landmark, in an effort to carry out a ‘senior prank.’”
The students are also required to participate in a campus beautification effort as restitution for the damage, after which they will be able to receive their diplomas.
“IPS will not tolerate criminal activity of any kind, in the name of senior pranks or otherwise,” the statement added. “Anyone found guilty of committing such acts will face harsh penalties.”
The school did, however, decline to pursue criminal charges, school district spokesperson Carrie Cline-Black told WTHR.
“We do want to make sure students can go on to be productive students,” she explained. “We don’t want to do anything that’s going to be a black mark on their transcript or permanent record.”
WTHR noted Friday that the damage done at the high school includes a break-in and the possible loss of student records. The pranksters are accused of writing on walls with chalk, scattering papers and using a fire extinguisher to spray across the basketball court—which means that the wooden floor may have to be refinished.
Food was also reportedly stolen from a food pantry for low-income students and families and smeared across the floors and carpeting, which will also require extensive cleanup. In addition, an office was broken into and personal student records were allegedly thrown throughout the building and outside, some of them reportedly lost.
IPS identified the seniors responsible through personal photos and on security cameras. Though banned from the ceremony, some of them still insisted on putting on their caps and gowns and standing outside the school while their classmates received their diplomas. WTHR notes that the students denied doing any real damage to the school.
Valedictorian Kayla Hawthorne, 18, told People magazine that she and her friends participated in some of the minor pranks, such as scattering balloons and smearing canned food on door handles and tying them together. They also apparently posed a dummy, made up to look like the principal, in an office chair.
However, Hawthorne said that some of the others took it a step further, resulting in the damage done to the school. She told People that she didn’t think it was fair that all of the students who took part in the prank were banned, when only a few were the culprits behind the damaging behavior described.
“I was very upset,” she said. “Although I was innocent, we still had to suffer the same consequences as the people who were culpable. … I really think they have the ability to dig deeper and find out who did the vandalism.”
Her father, Robert Hawthorne, who is the school’s wrestling coach, also thought the punishment was too harsh, but he added that he warned his daughter about taking responsibility for her actions.
“I told her whatever consequence comes down, she gets whatever the group gets,” he told People.