Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senior Pranks: All in Good Fun -- until 35-Year-Old Trees Are Destroyed

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senior Pranks: All in Good Fun -- until 35-Year-Old Trees Are Destroyed

Article excerpt

The senior prank has become enshrined in the pantheon of high school rituals, along with prom, homecoming and the commencement speech.

Every year, as graduation approaches, school administrators face a challenge: how to accommodate a healthy amount of teenage silliness in a way that minimizes property destruction.

Most of the time, the jokes stay within the bounds of decency and good humor. A Saran-wrapped car. A stairwell filled with cups of water. A group of students who bring their dogs on the last day of school.

Occasionally things get out of hand such as in 2003 when some Mehlville High School students spray-painted walls and lit a couple of portable toilets on fire, or in 2011 when three Troy Buchanan High School students were charged with felonies after building a 12- foot swimming pool inside the high school's commons.

This year, seniors from Holt High School in Wentzville uprooted three 35-year-old trees from planters in an atrium near the school's cafeteria and tried to replant them in a softball field outside.

The stunt late Tuesday or early Wednesday so badly damaged the trees' root structures that they were destroyed. And when property damage occurs, pranks become crimes.

Ten Holt High seniors all adults were arrested Thursday and released pending application for warrants.

And that wasn't the only prank that went awry this graduation season.

In Kirkwood, authorities say someone spray-painted signs, buildings and cars Tuesday after Kirkwood High School's annual "Toga Night."

Toga Night is an unsanctioned event when rising seniors play pranks on the rest of the school, Principal Michael Havener explained. He said the school tries to discourage it.

Police are still searching for the culprits, who could also face charges.

Some school administrators have realized it is to their advantage to cooperate with students on pranks, even lending a hand.

Mary LaPak, a spokeswoman for the Wentzville School District, said school officials at Timberland High, another of the district's three high schools, allowed the band to march through the halls playing the anthem "The Final Countdown" by the 1980s heavy metal band Europe. …

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