Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Beware: It's senior prank season

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Greg Peck
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Around Janesville, senior prank season generally jogs memories of toilet-papering school grounds.

While this tradition leaves litter and might involve trespassing, it otherwise can be harmless fun. Unless, of course, a squad car is chasing students down a sidewalk, as I've heard occurred outside Janesville Craig decades ago.

No local pranks have made statewide or national news yet, and let's hope it stays that way. That hasn't been the case around Wisconsin.

In the Fox Valley, for example, clever students posted a “for sale” ad online featuring none other than Appleton West High School.

As Jen Zettel wrote for Post-Crescent Media, the price was a mere $2,014 (Get it? Posted by the Class of 2014). The fictitious ad appeared briefly on Craigslist before the online service removed it. The ad described the school's location as “a beautiful corner lot” with “a lovely backyard for children to play, along with full track and tennis courts.”

It got nostalgic at the end: “West is best and is now, and always will be, better than Appleton North and East. All in all the building will leave you with lasting good and bad memories, but we just have no use for it anymore.”

As Zettel suggested, that prank was well-played.

Not so with what happened at Baraboo High School.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday that no charges would be filed after students got into the school. Most of what they left behind did little harm other than the need for about 3 hours of cleanup, and students helped with that.

Their pranks included spreading Vaseline on a teacher's desk and chair. They left glitter in a copy machine that was not permanently damaged, balloon glitter bombs, baby powder on stairs, hundreds of cups filled with water lining stairs and landings, and they zip-tied shut lockers and bathroom stalls. They toilet-papered the gym, placed garbage cans on basketball hoops and dumped glitter and baby powder on the floor.

Oh, they also put urine in soap dispensers, and someone broke a toilet while standing on the stool to zip tie the stall.

In part because students helped with cleanup and didn't do intentional damage, authorities decided not to file charges.

Another factor in that decision was how they got into the school. It seems Principal Glenn Bildsten agreed to let a small group in after hours. However, about 70 students showed up.

Bildsten apologized publicly, but his ill-advised decision led the school board to suspend him without pay for two days.

Let that be a lesson to all who might consider involvement in senior pranks in this neck of southern Wisconsin. Not all hijinks are harmless.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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