One kid’s prank is this parent’s vandalism.
Prank: Trick that is intended to be amusing but not to cause harm or damage.
Vandalism: The crime of intentionally damaging property belonging to other people.
Now we'll move to three case studies:
Police in Ceres, Calif., issued five citations for vandalism after a two-minute nacho fling in the Central Valley High School cafeteria. School officials have suspended eight or nine students -- some for throwing food, others for helping organize the fight via text messages.
About 40 Patterson High seniors blasted the building with paint balls and smeared lard on locks. Those who came forward had a choice: beautify the campus or face.
Officials at Gustine High School punished the entire senior class after a pig had to be euthanized and the school suffered $4,500 damage. Police said the students covered their school in graffiti, destroyed textbooks, broke into buildings and let the agriculture program's animals out of their pens. The Gustine rumor mill has it that some parents drove their kids to ""prank night.""
And yet some adults, such as this person who left a comment on the Ceres story at modbee.com, dismiss the incidents as ""pranks.""
""What a joke! For my senior prank, we planted an orange tree in our cross-town rival's football field, got caught and still graduated. Has high school life really changed that much in 15 years? Give these kids a break. This is the last time they will have fun for a while.""
Damaging public property is fun?
It's official: I've turned into a total fuddy-duddy. And a perplexed fuddy-duddy at that, because I don't know which is worse, the act or the apologists. Not to mention a fuddy-duddy who fears her old-fashioned values are going to confuse her kids.
There are a few things I preach constantly to the guys: Don't tear up other people's stuff, don't make excuses if you goof up, and it's not fun if someone gets hurt. But at these three high schools, at least, teens on the verge of adulthood violated all three maxims for the sake of a ""senior prank.""
I'm not about to alter my moral lessons to fit society's trends, but at times I wonder if I'm doing right by the guys.
Is it fair to teach them to take responsibility in a world where too many helicopter parents hover over their kids, ready to offer aid at any time? Will the guys feel abandoned and unloved because I don't hover? By not allowing them to offer excuses, am I setting them up to be the fall guys for peers whose parents wouldn't hesitate to storm the principal's office and demand that someone rectify the ""wrong"" done to their kids -- even in cases when their kids were the ones in the wrong?
I suppose only time will tell.
For now, I'll tell you this much:
A prank is when you call and ask, ""Do you have Prince Albert in a can.""
Vandalism is when you trash your school because you're entitled to ""fun"" before graduation.
Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.