Students won't walk at graduation after senior prank

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX – Nearly 100 high school seniors are barred from participating in their graduation ceremony after a senior prank resulted in vandalism and criminal damage at their school.

The principal of Casa Grande Union High School, Edna Morris, made the announcement at a district board meeting Wednesday night. Several of the students involved were in attendance to protest, claiming the punishment was too severe.

The number of students affected still has not been determined. School officials said it could be anywhere from 40 to 80 kids.

According to Morris, the students will receive their diplomas, but they will not enjoy the “privilege” of celebrating with their friends and classmates. Morris said the decision was a difficult one.

This all stems from an incident Sunday night, when about 80 students broke into the school as a senior prank. The instigators, some of the school's student leaders, said they only used chalk to write on sidewalks and windows.

Things escalated when another group of student showed up armed with spray paint.

According to police, the culprits stole the school mascot, placing it on top of a building, and spray-painted graffiti throughout the school in at least 100 spots. In addition, cafeteria tables were overturned and surveillance cameras were damaged. Burglary and aggravated criminal damage are felonies.

It's still not exactly clear who did what. Police are conducting an investigation.

On Monday, school officials threatened to cancel the graduation ceremony altogether. Wednesday, it was decided that the ceremony would go ahead as planned, but those involved in the senior prank would not be allowed to participate.

While the students are uniformly upset and some parents are irate, some people say the punishment is justified.

Some of the students agree in principle, but say the punishment should be almost anything but what it is.

"I do think punishment did need to be put in place," said Emily Machelor, one of the students who will not be allowed to walk at graduation. "Everyone knows it did get out of hand and that people do have to learn, but I think with the other options out there, there could have been other choices."

"It is with heavy heart that we are doing this," said Vice Principal Linda Bushor. "The message needs to be strong so that it doesn't continue and it doesn't happen again."

According to school officials, some juniors were involved in Sunday's incident. They said those students will be dealt with separately.

Seniors who are not being allowed to walk in the commencement ceremony said they will still attend graduation, and they will wear their caps and gowns. The administration has said it will allow that, but the kids cannot take part in the event.