RIVERSIDE – An more than 20-year tradition at Riverside Brookfield High School has likely to come to an end.
The so-called senior prank, where students come to the school before Homecoming Weekend and decorate the school in toilet paper and shaving cream, will probably be banned next year, according to Principal Pam Bylsma.
The banning of the tradition probably wasn’t far off, Bylsma said, but when the prank got out of control this year – two students were charged with felonies and many more faced discipline at the school – it was the last straw.
“We’ve never formally endorsed it,” Bylsma said. “[School officials] have also been a little uncomfortable with it.”
In the early morning hours of Oct. 2, police were called to the school for noise complaints. According to Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel, officers found about 100 students throwing toilet paper and spraying shaving cream, which in the past has been accepted by the school and community. However, police later found doors to the school painted with spray paint, door locks destroyed with glue, furniture spread around the lawns and pornographic photos printed from the Internet with the names of members of the school’s staff written on them.
Two students were charged with criminal damage to state supported property, the police department announced last week.
Bylsma was quick to say that only a small percentage of the students who took part in the activities took the prank too far. Going forward, the school wants to take away the opportunity for escalation, or for students who wouldn’t normally make bad decisions to act badly as a group.
Bylsma said that many students agreed the prank had gone too far and were angry at those students who crossed the line.
“It was hard knowing my own classmates disrespected our school the way they did,” Isis Galindo, the Student Association Executive Board president, said in a statement. This school has done so much for the students; the faculty here really make the possibilities infinite. It was tough knowing some students don’t appreciate that, and rather disrespected the faculty the way they did. Although it was sad not being able to spend our last homecoming together, I believe homecoming was successful.”
Many students were concerned that Homecoming festivities would be canceled entirely, but Bylsma said the school never considered that.
“It really took the wind out of their sails,” Bylsma said. “There was no reason to punish students who had nothing to do with it.”
In addition to the two students facing formal charges, another 55 students faced disciplinary action at the school, according to Bylsma. The school suspended 14 of those 55, and others lost the opportunity to participate in school activities and Homecoming events.
According to Weitzel, the police department has had very few incidents arise from the yearly senior prank. He said most parents know their children are participating and those who participate are often the same students who are involved in school activities like cheerleading, sports and extracurriculars.
“It’s good kids,” Weitzel said.
But Bylsma said that even throwing toilet paper and shaving cream are outside of the school’s values. Bylsma said wasting toilet paper and shaving cream was not ecologically sound and went against the school’s mission to be green. It also created a hardship for the custodial staff, who have to pick up the mess after the event, she said.
But, Bylsma said, most students see the prank as a way to celebrate their pride in their school, not to disrespect it. For that reason, school administration and students should come together to find a new way to celebrate the school next year, she suggested.
Bylsma said the board will begin the review of their student handbook, which sets rules for student conduct, in the spring. Bylsma said the senior prank will likely be banned next year through that process.
“We have phenomenal kids here,” Bylsma said. “Unfortunately, some just crossed the line.”