Some students say their South Carolina high school won’t let them walk at graduation to discipline them for their involvement in senior prank — a punishment they say is too harsh. But police say the prank was an act of vandalism.
“It’s more of a crime than it is a prank,” Jimmy Davis, assistant police chief of the Darlington Police Department, told McClatchy News. Darlington is about 76 miles northeast of Columbia.
On the night of May 12, more than 30 students entered multiple buildings on the Darlington High School campus without permission and damaged and vandalized property, according to a statement from the Darlington County School District.
The students obscured cameras with debris; egged windows and doors; graffitied walkways, walls and windows with chalk paint; poured chocolate syrup and threw confetti throughout the buildings; sprayed shaving cream in water fountains and on lockers, display cases and windows; turned over full trash cans and spread garbage throughout the buildings; wrapped plastic wrap around light poles, water fountains and doorways; broke into and vandalized the principal’s office; removed a mascot headpiece from its display case and left it in a courtyard with shaving cream on it; stuck feminine pads to doorways, walls and stop signs; threw classroom furniture into the hallways; removed gym equipment from storage and threw it around the gym; dumped hand sanitizer into hallways; brought various construction items onto campus and left them inside buildings; and stole money and several other items from the main office, the statement says.
A police officer noticed the vandalism at around 11:02 p.m. on May 12 and notified school officials, Davis said. The school declined to press charges against any students.
Audrey Childers, a spokeswoman for the school district, said district officials were not allowed to comment on specific disciplinary actions taken against students for privacy reasons.
“We did follow policy and procedure when issuing discipline, and these students did face consequences of their actions,” Childers told McClatchy News.
Some students told WPDE that they are not going to be allowed to walk at their graduation ceremony — a response they said was much too strong.
One student told WPDEthat it was unfair of school administrators to take away the seniors’ graduation experience after they had worked hard all year.
“We spent a lot of hours in clubs,” Jordan Wilds told the news outlet. “Student-athletes. College classes while taking regular classes doing a lot. Working and still maintaining good grades. A, B honor roll, and you mean to tell us that we can’t walk? All of this hard work. That makes no sense.”
Darlington High School’s graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 27, according to the school’s website.
In its statement, the school district called the students’ actions “serious” and said custodians and school staff had to work all night to clean up the mess the students made and ensure school could open the next morning.
“As educators, it’s always difficult when young people make poor decisions that could impact their future,” Tim Newman, superintendent of the Darlington County School District, said, according to the statement. “This was a serious situation with serious consequences. While accountability is necessary, this moment does not have to define the future of these students.”