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Annals of Zero Tolerance: Eradicating Great Pranks

It takes more than good old guts and wit to pull off a good prank these days. You also have to have the fortitude (or brazen confidence) to ignore the fact that schools, police and other authorities have bought into the zero tolerance game and will nail you to the wall for entertaining yourself and those around you.

A viral video that's bopping around the web of late chronicles the clever and delicious move by students at Hilliard Davidson High School in Columbus, Ohio, who managed to get 800 fans of their school's football opponent, Darby High, to hold up cards that all together spelled out a humongous "We Suck." For their creative troubles, the Davidson conspirators got three days of suspension and were banned from extracurricular activities for the semester.

Of course, the kid should and will get a place in the local folklore hall of fame, and while it's probably too much to ask that his school grant him official recognition for his splendid achievement, the principal should have known well enough to just shut up about the incident.

But the zero tolerance insanity that also infects Washington area high schools (on the jump, see my piece on how Fairfax County crushed some kids who pulled off a fine piece of work a few years ago) shows no sign of abating.

In one state after another, it has proven easier to just throw out kids who pull off pranks rather than allow principals and teachers to discern between the witty and the just plain mean. The automatic punishment regimen creates all too much opportunity for hypocrisy, as we saw in the infamous case of Alexandria schools superintendent Rebecca Perry.

Luckily, there is a backlash against the zero tolerance movement, focusing on the need to inject a bit more discretion into the disciplinary codes of schools and other institutions.

That didn't help the kids in Columbus or the Yale students who pulled off an almost identical prank in 2004. And there are still plenty of folks who appreciate a great prank.

Do you know of any good ones pulled off around here recently?

The Dec. 15, 2001 column

One year, it was lab rats released in the cafeteria. Another year, the seniors at Robinson High in Fairfax County tarred shut the school's main door. This fall, a bunch of seniors decided to steal a page from another year's Homecoming Week senior prank: They would spread baby oil on the terrazzo floor of Robinson's main hall.

Friday morning, Oct. 26, just before the annual pep rally. A handful of seniors arrive with baby oil. Down in the locker bay, Phil Masterson is handed a bottle. He hesitates. "I stopped and thought, 'My senior year isn't worth messing up for this.' " So, he says, he puts the bottle down. The others charge ahead with the prank.

Five seniors -- including Phil -- don't go to Robinson anymore. A Fairfax County schools hearing officer last month tossed them out permanently; one was sent to the county's alternative school the rest were dispersed to other high schools. And get this: The system is pressing criminal charges against the students, several of whom are due in court Tuesday. Zero tolerance, baby.

"The first response to a prank should be laughter," Robinson Principal Ann Monday told me. So far, so good. Alas, she continued: "But this goes well beyond the category of prank. We try to be reasonable in our responses, but it comes down to how safe are our kids and how disruptive was this."

Principal Monday -- and the hearing officer who put the Baby Oil Five out of her school -- concluded that this prank "severely disrupted" the school by forcing cancellation of the pep rally and requiring 40 man-hours and several hundred dollars worth of cleanup.

From a summary by hearing officer Richard Doyle: "As seniors and staff members encountered the slick floors, some began to lose footing." Monday adds, "We were lucky we didn't have any injuries."

Many parents at Robinson see it differently: "They screwed up, they pulled a prank," says the mother of one condemned boy. "Nobody got hurt. It wasn't drugs, it wasn't a gun, it wasn't even alcohol. I could see a few days' suspension, but this is wild overkill."

Phil Masterson's mother, Shari Wolfe, says her son's banishment from Robinson -- he may not set foot on school grounds -- has left the boy almost without hope. "The other day, he told me, 'Mom, what's the point? What college will take me now?' "

Amazingly, Phil was "excluded," the official term for the ban, even though no witness saw him participate in the oiling. No matter: The hearing officer "was not convinced that Philip has been totally forthcoming." No proof necessary, apparently.

Phil, 17, describes interrogations in which school security officers repeatedly told him, "Time to 'fess up, your buddies are telling on you." He was told that 10 witnesses saw him pour oil, but in the end, there was no such testimony. Phil remains stunned that school officials would lie.

"This was just the typical senior prank that happens in almost every high school," Phil says. "It was a foolish prank, never intended to hurt anyone. I know people who've gotten in less trouble for drug possession."

Zero tolerance, zero sense. Last year, a Loudoun middle-schooler was suspended for four months because he took a knife from a classmate who had previously attempted suicide. But the knife was in our hero's locker when authorities found out about it, so off with his head. Then we had the Virginia senior who got suspended for taking a swig of Listerine, which contains forbidden alcohol. Nationwide, school suspensions have almost doubled since the 1970s, though crime has dropped like a stone.

When I was in high school, a trio of us squirreled away dissection animals that had belonged to a boy who'd left the school. Come spring, we opened the window of the third-floor bio lab, which overlooked the baseball field, and, once each inning, dropped an animal near the feet of the visiting right fielder. Worm in the second, starfish in the third, frog in the fourth.

After the game, the headmaster ushered us into his office. Mr. Clark pursed his lips, jutted his jaw. Uh-oh, here it comes. He told us the right fielder had come off the field muttering that "It was raining animals out there."

"You know what I'm supposed to say," Mr. Clark said. "But it must have been beautiful. Well done, men. Now get out of here." Discretion, proportion, humor -- so simple, so obvious, so rare.

By Marc Fisher |  September 5, 2007; 7:32 AM ET
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Comments

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love to hear a follow up on the baby oil five - how did things turn out for them?

Posted by: jj | September 5, 2007 8:03 AM

I don't know if area high schools offer Advanced Placement in pranks, but here is a college prank reading list:

If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks by Neil Steinberg (1992); Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT by T. F. Peterson (2003); Prank University: The Ultimate Guide to College's Greatest Tradition by John Austin (2006).

I, of course, never did such things. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by: Mike Licht | September 5, 2007 8:19 AM

agree but baby oil is seriously dangerous - lost footing and attempting to remain up right is a great way to really hurt your back and the falls could have resulted in fractures....I'm a fan of pranks - even better if the community has a view of a time when it's ok (ie homecoming week) - and the "well done" response (including making pranksters clean up!) ... I think the possibility of really hurting a lot of people puts the baby oil in the "stupid and dangerous" category

Posted by: discretion and judgmen | September 5, 2007 8:19 AM

I find it unconscionable that schools take a zero tolerance policy towards childish pranks. This is a complete abdication of the school's responsibility to teach children.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2007 9:17 AM

This is my favorite high school prank, also from Robinson...a year or two before the baby oil incident, a group of seniors brought several baby pigs (piglets?) to school and let them wander the hallways. The pigs had numbers on their backs and school officials quickly captured four of them...1, 2, 3 and 5. The search was on for the elusive #4 and the school was on virtual lockdown until, near the end of the day, a note was passed stating that there were only four pigs.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | September 5, 2007 9:18 AM

The website Zero Intelligence at zerointelligence.net has been chronicling the judgement deficit common among American school administrators for several years now.

Posted by: athea | September 5, 2007 9:27 AM

I went to a private prep christian school. We had chapel every day. It wasn't always religious, but it was still a pain to listen to the headmaster or the reverend for half an hour every day.

Sometimes we had artistic performances, so the chapel was wired for sound with big speakers. My senoir year, a group of us, slipped a tape into the control room, and pressed play. There was 15 minutes of dead tape, which allowed for the reverend to get deep into his sermon.

Then, in the middle of his sermon, a booming voice came out of the speakers "JIM (the rev's first name), THIS IS GOD." The tape kept going for a few minutes, but it was heard to hear over the laughter. It took a few moments before a teacher was able to get up, exit the chapel, and stop the tape.

It was all good fun, and we were never caught. But I wonder if that happend if we had pulled that prank in today's times. Expulsion? Suspension,at the least. We weren't even worried. We figured that if we did get caught, we were looking at saturday detention, at the worst.

How times have changed.

Posted by: DCmarathoner | September 5, 2007 9:32 AM

Any discussion of Washington area pranks has to include the VW Beetle 100 feet off of the ground on top of the old Walt Whitman HS sports dome. Brilliance.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2007 10:07 AM

I truly do not understand how Zero Tolerance got started. Because of the seriousness, it's selectively enforced in schools I know because few principals want to instantly ruin a kid's life. Therefore it's not and has never been a "zero tolerance" policy. Once it's enforced the kids have no ability to combat it because the administrators fall back to "zero tolerance" which itself is a lie. There is almost no place in the criminal justice system that utilizes "Zero tolerance" because it's un-American in the extreme. I would like to see someone, anyone, defend this.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2007 10:23 AM

I still love Rockville High School's Principal, Durinda Yates' stand on spray painting Baltimore road in front of the school by seniors: Expulsion for anyone caught doing it. At least in 2001 and 2002 she also organized clean up days where students had to go out and paint over the spray paint with black paint. The Best was a boulder next to the Rock Creek Bike path that had been painted Orange. She actually had students paint it grey to cover it up.
Of course her over reaction could only lead to one thing and one thing alone. The year after she started trying to enforce these rules painting the road went from cheeky fun to down right offensive as kids started painting giant phallic images and offensive words to strike back at her.

Posted by: That Guy | September 5, 2007 10:26 AM

I happened to be home today sick and read the article "Annals of Zero Tolerance: Eradicating Great Pranks." Pranks, called hacks by some, are just another way for bored, often smart, ingenious students to let off steam. My alma mater, MIT, has a great tradition of hacking that has showcased their ingenuity and tenaciousness, and the university and (Cambridge) city police never seemed too bothered by it. There were unwritten rules, of course, that protected people's safety, but beyond that, anything goes. Many, many years ago, long before Columbine in a very different part of the country from the hyper-(fill in the blank) DC area, a group of friends and I dropped in commando-style, literally, into my best friend's AP exam with water-squirters. We proceeded to remove his exam from the desk, wet him up just enough to get him relaxed, cleaned and dried his desk, and placed his exam back where it was. Everyone loved it (the school administration never got wind of it, as far as I know). Doing something like that today would be a one-way ticket to jail and fines. I reminisced with my best friend about this a few years ago and lamented how stifling the atmosphere has become in our schools. I understand why, but it does not lessen the fact that things have changed a great deal, perhaps for the worse. However, there will alway be some of us who will carry one these traditions irespective.

Posted by: KPIRATE | September 5, 2007 10:31 AM

Putting baby oil down on the floor could have resulted in serious injuries, fortunately that didn't happen. Was it a stupid prank? Yes. But, was it meant maliciously? No.

But why not let the punishment fit the crime? Whatever happened to making the kids who messed it up, clean it up. That would have cost the school nothing, would have required a lot of time to clean up and given them plenty of time to regret their actions, and made every other student think twice about doing something quite that dumb.

Posted by: JC | September 5, 2007 10:31 AM

I agree that school officials in these cases are giving new meaning to the term "weenie," but we also need to keep in mind the hyper-contentious and litigious world we live in. The line in the Robinson story about "thank God no one got hurt" might sound dumb, but in the event some little darling slipped and had a boo-boo you can bet that the parents would have insisted that their son/daughter go to the hospital and get every test in the world ("just to be on the safe side") then expect the school system to foot the bill. It is these parent vigilantes that have caused so many school systems to ban home-made food from being distributed because, as we know, allowing a child to give a friend a cookie is just like "pointing a loaded gun." And let's not get into the whole mess that will result if an administrator in trying to make "the punishment fit the crime" happens to decided that the member of one ethnic/gender group should be punished more harshly than another ethnic/gender group for separate incidents.

Posted by: payne | September 5, 2007 10:56 AM

The students deserved to be expelled from Robinson High School. Someone could have been badly hurt falling on the floor. My brother slipped on a rain slickened manhole cover in a crosswalk, and he broke his kneecap in multiple places. He had two operations, and he uses a cane when he walks. The doctor told him that he will probably need an artificial knee at some point. Plus, he has chronic pain, too.

Moreover, The Washington Post has security at its front entrance, so no one could do such a dangerous act at his workplace. Mr. Fisher and his colleagues would not tolerate slipping and falling on an oily floor. Don't school students and staff deserve the same consideration?

Posted by: Jeff | September 5, 2007 11:01 AM

If they slipped on the floor they might never be able to play the violin again.

Posted by: Mickey | September 5, 2007 11:21 AM

When I was in high school (Morgantown (WV) High School - Class of '66), we convinced the student who painted the yard lines to write out "Beat Elkins" (a rival football team) on the field in BIG letters before the lights were turned on. It looked very nice, the students loved it, the team was spurred on by it and no one got into trouble.

In addition, long before my time, students at West Virginia University placed a cow in the clock tower in Woodburn Hall. The story goes that getting the cow to climb three flights of stairs was easy; coming down was a problem.

You are right - It is a failure of educators to educate.

Posted by: David Mitchell | September 5, 2007 11:33 AM

The students deserved to be expelled from Robinson High School. Someone could have been badly hurt falling on the floor.
-----
Right, but you have to also agree, right, that every time you drive your car someone could get badly hurt if you hit them, right? You have to agree that is the same thing, right? People are still allowed to sell cigarettes- they haven't disappeared even though there is no doubt to their deadliness.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2007 11:45 AM

I don't think it was a school prank necessarily, but the railroad bridge over the Beltway near Kensington was often painted with "Surrender Dorothy."

It took me years before I figured out that it was a reference to the odd similarity between the Mormon Temple and the Emerald City of Wizard of Oz fame.

The moment I did figure it out, I laughed so hard I nearly drove my car into the guardrail.

I assume it was local youths who painted it every year. No more. God forbid we should add too much levity to our daily commutes.

Posted by: Tsar Bomba | September 5, 2007 11:45 AM

Great job Marc! This topic of the mindlessness of ZT policies is long overdue. Schools are disillusioned into thinking that ZT policies will prevent another Columbine and parents have no idea how easy it is for their kid to get swept into this nightmare.

Just a few facts from The Fairfax County Public Schools disciplinary machine:

Parents are prohibited from recording the hearing if they choose to challenge a principal's recommendation for suspension or expulsion. You have NO official record of what is said in the meeting.

For the school year 2005-06 there were over 900 recommendations from principals for expulsion-900!! Many were for minor offenses such as disrespect, vandalism, etc. EVERY ONE was upheld by the hearing office-not ONE was deemed excessive or inappropriate. Basically Jack Dale's office backs their principals EVERY TIME regardless of the circumstances.

And if parents decide to challenge the hearing officer's decision (which of course we know will go against the child) the kid is not permitted to attend school until the school board hears the appeal-which means the kid misses 8-10 weeks of school.

ZT is arbitrary and capricious in FCPS. Minorities and boys are disproportionately punished. It is positively discriminatory.

I loved this article-but parents need to know how truly horrific ZT is.

Posted by: take back our schools | September 5, 2007 11:46 AM

"Zero Tolerance" is nothing but a cop-out. With this inane "policy" in place, they don't have to take any responsibility when they have to mete out punishments. Although it protects them from any accusations of favoritism, it also prevents them from using their common sense. It's intellectually lazy and is counter-productive to providing a good learning environment.

Posted by: j-man | September 5, 2007 11:48 AM

I grew up in a farming community in New York and remember arriving at school one day to see the flag pole had turned into a tower of tires. It turns out someone had access to a hay elevator, and that's how the tires got on the flag pole. It was even funnier watching the maintenance department figure out how to remove them.

Posted by: leroy | September 5, 2007 11:48 AM

People who refuse to discipline their
children call their bad behavior pranks.
The noose in Jena was a "PRANK" .

Posted by: larry g | September 5, 2007 11:58 AM

Class of '94 at Hylton High School had a classic prank. Some of the guys from my class swiped a giant inflatable Ronald McDonald from a new McDonald's in the area, inflated him, and stuck him up on the school roof on the first day of senior exams. He sat there on the roof, waving to us as we came in to school.

It was a classic prank: funny, witty, harmless, and nobody really got upset. Even the manager of the McDonald's thought it was really funny, and it made the front page of the Potomac News.

Posted by: Shannon | September 5, 2007 12:09 PM

Oh come on! You know why this stuff has gotten to this point! Everyone is scared of being sued! They aren't worried about someone being hurt, they are worried about the thousands of dollars that could be lost in litigation! This is a world of our own selfish creation.

Posted by: Guess Why | September 5, 2007 12:15 PM

This should be the first of a series of investigative reports on Zero Tolerance policies, espcially here in Northern Virginia. It is a process that is deliberately cloaked by murkiness and where administrators hide behind "privacy laws" to ensure no one finds out how horrifying their policies and actions are.

There are numerous studies that show not only does ZT NOT WORK as intended, but it is egregiously harmful to students, families, and their communities. In fact, a report to the Virginia Department of Education by Anne Atkinson, PhD, dated November 2005 and titled "Zero Tolerance Policies: An Issues Brief" states in its conclusion that "There is mounting opposition to the ways that zero tolerance policies are being implemented, particularly at the local level. Defenders of zero tolerance policies argue the need for strict policies that send a clear message and are designed to protect students. Numerous critics have declared such policies unjust, discriminatory, unconstitutional, harmful to schools and students, ineffective in achieving intended results, and ineptly implemented." In fact, it continues, "A limitation in examining zero tolerance policies is the absence of any objective study of local zero tolerance policies and practices in Virginia. We do not know how local policies are implemented, the levels and degrees of discretion authorized or exercised, or the strategies used by school divisions to ensure that building- and division-level administrators exercise sound discretion."

Studies elsewhere, however, have unequivocally concluded that Zero Tolerance abrogates due process and "throws kids out," is antithetical to what we know of child development, and DOES NOT WORK.

I have personal experience with the nightmare of ZT in Fairfax County and have gathered stories from others, and can say unequivocally that this county cares ONLY about the center of the bell curve when it comes to its kids. The big ugly secret of this "best of school systems" is that It could care less about any student who falls even slightly outside the lock-step square holes it plugs them into, and that its policies are completely out of step with scientific understanding of adolescents and their behaviors and development.

We need an investigative reporter to dig into this. A Pulitzer awaits!

Posted by: Caroline | September 5, 2007 12:19 PM

Test

Posted by: Caroline | September 5, 2007 12:30 PM

Pranks can get out of hand. How about a mention of the Jena 6?

Posted by: Pranks | September 5, 2007 12:32 PM

The really bad thing is that if the "good" students do it, it's a malicious prank and they get tossed out of school for it. If the football or basketball players do it, it's "school spirit."

Then, if the students and parents choose to contest the issue by, for example, choosing to have legal help in attendance, the board hammers the kids even harder. FWIW - in PG county reverse racism enters the picture. To make the racial statistics look "better" they will throw the book at white & asian kids while calling it normal behavior for others.

Posted by: John | September 5, 2007 12:55 PM

herndon high school class of '77 put a vw beetle on the top of the school. great prank. harmless & funny.

Posted by: quark | September 5, 2007 12:57 PM

J-man is 100% correct; "Zero-tolerance" is intellectually lazy. By always pushing to punish everyone to the full extent possible, everyone recieves the same treatment. This is considered to be "fair".

I experienced this first-hand at JEB Stuart HS where I was told "even though you are a good kid, we have to treat you the same as the other kids."

Highschool administrators are essentially babysitters with a beaurocratic mindset. A zero-tolerance policy is just the easiest way to approach the job.

Posted by: jebster | September 5, 2007 1:03 PM

The severity of their punishments sound about the same as we got in the 1980s. As long as you show some wit in your pranks and get the teachers to laugh to, you won't get severly punished. Unfortunately, many people think being merely cruel or committing vandalism qualifies as a prank.

At a very strict Catholic school, our 8th grade class moved--picked up and carried--the VW rabbit of our teacher who had a notoriously had temper and hid it in a little patch of trees on campus. It would have not been so funny if this teacher was a little, slimey man who drove a little crappy car. Our teacher was a big muscular, 6 feet 6, and it his choice of car was a school-wide joke. He purposely kept the car to extend to absurdity of the situation. So our moving it and hiding it kept with an ongoing inside joke among the students and faculty.

That is showing some sensitivity and wit. Had we TP'd it or something, it would undoubtedly have been less funny, and would have gotten us in serious trouble.

On the other hand, my dad went to high school in New Jersey, and the local rivalries between high school football teams were usually quite violent. Whole busloads full of players tipped over, gang-fights, rock-throwing, baseball-bat-swinging sorts of thing. At the time there was essentially zero intolerance. The other extreme we have now does not seem so bad.

Posted by: bkp | September 5, 2007 1:03 PM

In FCPS, principals are given full discretion in handing out punishments. Last football season a number of West Potomac football players vandalized Mt Vernon High School. They received 3 day suspensions and had to miss ONE football game. Other students in FCPS are not so lucky-a number of kids were expelled last year from FCPS for vandalism. This discretion means that the kids are treated unfairly within and among schools in the county. The punishment must fit the crime and be consistent- otherwise the kids don't respect the system and it is a waste of time.

I would love to know how many FCPS employee's kids have ever been punished-my hunch is ZERO. It is nice to have friends in high places, I guess.

Posted by: FCPS parent | September 5, 2007 1:04 PM

Noose in tree = prank.

Body in noose in tree = not a prank.

Posted by: Stick | September 5, 2007 1:33 PM

After reading about the implementation of Zero Tolerance in Fairfax County Public Schools, I think that Fairfax county citizens should have a Zero Tolerance Policy towards FCPS administrators. Each administrator should be given a set of performance benchmarks for his or her organization each year. If the administrator's organization fails to met or beat every benchmark, the administrator is terminated for cause.

Posted by: Mister Methane | September 5, 2007 2:03 PM

At the end of last school year, several seniors from Robert E Lee played a little prank on the juniors. The kids sealed the Juniors lockers with some sort of plastic tie so that when the kids went to their lockers none of them would open. The administrators had to run down the halls cutting off the plastic clips. It was really funny. The administrators did not find the humor in it and actually threatened to keep the Seniors from walking at their high school graduation. They did let them walk but it is just another example of their willingness to ruin a kid and their family over a silly harmless prank.

At least they did back down and came to their senses. You have to wonder if it was a kid they didn't like whether they would have been as forgiving...

Posted by: FCPS Incident | September 5, 2007 2:30 PM

ZT is a tool for the lazy, humorless administrator with an overzealous legal department. To some extent, it's a product of the hair-trigger on some folks' "Sue the bastards" reflex, and to that extent, it's our own fault.

That said, I would hope any college applicant caught up in a zero-tolerance purge like this would inform the colleges they're applying to about it in full. If the college doesn't want them solely because of the prank, do they really want to go there? I think it's Cal Tech where the pranks played on one class by another are so much a tradition that they're practically a part of the curriculum.

Wasn't it squid the kids at TJ put in the drains?

Posted by: Steve Wheelock | September 5, 2007 3:06 PM

"Right, but you have to also agree, right, that every time you drive your car someone could get badly hurt if you hit them, right? You have to agree that is the same thing, right?"

Er, no. You know the potential dangers of driving and being a pedestrian. You know smoking is deadly. The dangers are expected.

You do not expect to walk into a school with a hard floor covered in baby oil. Not only was it a lame and boring prank (seriously, how much planning did it take? come in early and pour some oil?) it was also much more potentially dangerous than a prank ought to be.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2007 4:26 PM

One of the best things about getting out of HS in the DC metro area is getting away from the witless intolerance of the people who run the schools...

Posted by: Gentry | September 5, 2007 4:26 PM

Good Prank from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day school: The senior class filled the junoir class hall wall to wall with solo cups filled with water so nobody could pass through without making a mess or having to clean it all up. I cannot remember if anyone got in trouble for that one. That achool has had quite a few impressive pranks including a leter supposedly sent by the principal to all senior asking parents to encourage their kids to have safe sex after prom since they knew their kids would be doing it anyways.

Posted by: That guy | September 5, 2007 4:27 PM

I absolutely loved the "Surrender Dorothy" graffiti years ago on the bridge over the Beltway in Montgomery County as you approached the Mormon Temple. It was the perfect comment on the architecture and the view from there.

I didn't see as mean-spirited bigotry but as a prank (no name calling, incredibly witty), but admit I am not a Mormon. I wish they had not pressured the county--as I assume must have happened--to repeatedly paint it over as though it was some KKK hate graffiti. A little piece of our shared culture died with it. It's hard to humanize the Beltway, and all props to the genius who executed this long-gone prank.

Posted by: Another defeated prank | September 5, 2007 4:53 PM

For those who might have missed some of the more outrageous decisions by school officials in the last year alone:

Locally, a Herndon middle school boy was hauled into the principal's office because he violated the school's "no touching" rule. That's right NO TOUCHING AT ALL to include high fives, handshakes, shoulder pats for a job well done, etc. The principal claimed the policy was necessary to maintain order in her school. Another shining star out of FCPS wacko land

The case in ILL this past June where an honors student was denied her physical diploma because....brace yourselves....her family cheered for her when she walked accross the stage at graduation. Until the national news outlets picked up the story, they were going to hold her diploma.

Another case out of ILL where the principal sent home 125 kids on the first day of school because of dress code violations. This is a school district with horrendous test scores and drop out rates, yet the principal has the luxury of missing a day of instruction.

The case out of Oregon where the two middle school boys ran down the hall slapping girls butts. The school called police, the kids were handcuffed, strip searched sent to juve hall for 3 days and were facing registration as sex offenders until the national press picked up the story and they backed down and dropped the charges.

The case in PA where the 12 year old Spec ED girl wet herself in class because she was so upset. The principal suspended her saying that she was disruptive. The school changed their mind and worked it out with the parents when it hit the evening news.

There are literally thousands of stories like these. Parents need to let their school boards know that this insanity must stop-it is borderline child abuse.

Posted by: ZT SUCKS | September 5, 2007 4:55 PM

Perhaps the slug for this column should have one of the "n"'s taken out of the first word, as those who are imposing the standard most assuredly appear to be....

Posted by: jmcnerney | September 5, 2007 4:56 PM

The first thing I thought of when I read this was the long-lost "Surrender Dorothy" graffiti. I too miss it as a key part of DC.

Posted by: Surrender Dorothy | September 5, 2007 5:02 PM

I went to Seneca Valley out in Germantown when it was brand-new and the student body was an odd mix of scientists' kids from the National Bureau of Standards and the nuclear agency and really big farm kids. (We RULED the state football championships, but also won academic competitions.)

It was a scattered big high school with many separate worlds, so I was surprised one spring day to discover the school administrators frantically chasing a greased piglet around the cafeteria. It had, of course, been purchased and released as a prank by the seniors of the 4-H Club. I was a science nerd, but man, that piglet chase made my day!

I wonder if part of the problem is that pranks with animals, etc., that were okay in rural schools with a real sense of community don't translate to uptight suburban systems with mobile student populations like Fairfax? Seneca Valley is in Montgomery County, but my memory of the prank dates to the early 1980s and perhaps it wouldn't go over so well in MoCo today.

Posted by: Rural versus Suburban? | September 5, 2007 5:03 PM

Zero tolerance got started because everytime a kid got charged someone screamed racism or sexism if another child who had done somewhat the same thing but was a different race/gender/whatever got a lesser punishment. So, to seem totally fair and to be able to imitate Pontius Pilate, they came up with zero tolerance.

The baby oil prank COULD have been dangerous. But since it wasn't, expulsion was a bit much. Make them clean it up (what my dad always made me do about my pranks) and some detention, or community service at the local hospital helping those with broken arms eat. The kids with the signs really should have gotten something for poor sportsmanship, but not suspnesion. The raining animals was beautiful.

Posted by: ep | September 5, 2007 7:29 PM

I went to Saint Johns in the District in the early '80s and in 1982, before the Gonzaga football game, we snuck into Gonzaga's garage and painted through the words "Gonzaga High School" on their school bus. Said painted bus then had to deliver the Gonzaga football team to the game.

Posted by: Jerry | September 5, 2007 7:34 PM

The funniest prank at my school was when we sodomized the principal. Great fun. Hijinks!

Posted by: Friday Knight | September 5, 2007 8:59 PM

If FCPS has a ZT for their students, then Jack Dale needs to have a ZT for every FCPS employee who breaks the rules.
Lets have parents be the judges when these school employees break the rules and use the same standards that FCPS officials use against students.
Jack you and your school system is out of control on this one.

Posted by: Out of control | September 5, 2007 10:42 PM

I believe if FCPS has a ZT standard for its students, then it most have a ZT standard for all of there employees.
If students have to go when they break the rules, then these employees must go also.

Posted by: Fairfax parent | September 5, 2007 11:55 PM

If FCPS has a ZT policy regarding students touching students, then they need to have a ZT policy regarding teachers touching teachers, teachers touching students and any FCPS official who may touch students or teachers.
If they break the rules, then they need to be treated the same way that FCPS deals with students.
What about having a ZT policy regarding teachers who abuse students?

Posted by: What is going on in FCPS | September 6, 2007 12:15 PM

Tim Brant, at WJLA, said that back in the 50's someone(s) put detergent in the fountain at Western Ave and Mass (or Conn, or Wisconsin) Avenue and the soap flowed down the road. I saw the same about a year or two ago just off Rt 202 on Lottsford Road where detergent was dumped in a fountain in front of a fancy development.
Or this prank from Gonzaga towards DeMatha:
http://64.226.183.83/code/vbs/HeadlineNews/archives/1103.asp

Posted by: Ted | September 9, 2007 8:24 PM

Hilarious! They did the same thing at my school, same MO, on the way to the pep rally, thousands of kids in the hallway, babyoiled the terrazzo, which is really just pretty-upped poured concrete. They saw it done in some early 90's teen flick (what movie was that guys?) It was hilarious on film. In real life the little retarded kids who were right behind the pranksters slipped and fell, two concussions, one kid hospitalized with a cranial fracture. No we didn't expell them, they got a five day suspension and were charged with reckless endangerment. they were found guilty served community service, got probation for a year, and the parents of the injured sued them and their parents for medical fees. When they returned to school they were pariahs among there classmates and I'm guessing in the age of the Patriot Act this will follow them always. Justice served. Thanks for asking.

Posted by: Slippery Raw Fish | November 6, 2007 3:53 PM

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