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Keven Moore: End of the year senior pranks can be risky, costly and become part of a permanent record

It’s that time of year again where high school seniors are basking in the glory of their Senior Year Prank, while ‘Soon To Be Seniors” (juniors) are starting to strategize their plan of attack for the upcoming year.

A senior prank is a type of organized prank pulled by the senior class of a school, designed to cause chaos and hilarity just days before graduation. The pranks are usually carried out at the end of the senior school year as a going away mark on the school, which has become something of a tradition here in the United States.

Growing up back in my day, end of the year senior pranks were not yet that much of a thing in my neck of the woods. Yes we had pranks, prom, and senior skip day at Jacobson Park and we had multiple graduation parties. There were some that were hosted by parents and there were some that parents were never aware of, that got a little out of control.

The closest thing to a senior prank that I can remember was when a few of us planned to sneak mice into our graduation ceremony but the 2 four-legged contraband creatures that I brought into the ceremony died in my coat pocket before I had a chance tofree Mickey and Minnie in Rupp Area. This meant that I had to walk across the stage to receive my high school diploma, with two dead mice in my pocket and guilt written all over my face.

The senior prank that stood out with my three kids, was the one that my oldest daughter’s graduating class had organized. The seniors arrived early on the last day of school to snag the teacher’s parking spaces. They all parked their cars sideways, blasted their music, propped up their grills and began grilling burgers and hot dogs. They had a little party of their own on the school grounds which caused a major traffic jam.

High school seniors everywhere “just wanna have fun.”

That has never changed and students are getting more and more creative with their senior pranks in efforts to outdo the prior classes.This practice has fast become somewhat of a rite of passage, which I blame on the internet.Students dream that their prank will elevate them to a folklore status within their class with great hopes that their prank will go viral.

Common senior pranks include but are not limited to: adopting unusual or fancy dress, using water pistols, stink bombs, water balloons, shaving cream on each other or on teachers, issuing fake announcements over the intercom, saran wrapping the principal’s car, imposing parking levies on the staff car park, driving a motorcycle through hallways, issuing staff with detentions or uniform infringements,chalk graffiti, streaking naked through the school,filling elevators with hay or spreading bird seed in the staff parking lot to attract birds that leave droppings on their vehicles.

A few of the more creative senior pranks found online (click to enlarge).

However students today have taken senior pranks a little too far and many don’t stop to think of the consequences, causing them to be suspended from school and banning them from walking at graduation. Most times these senior pranks start out harmless and in good spirit, but then escalate to vandalism, due to youthful indiscretion.

The truth of the matter is that every year senior pranks inflict tens of thousands of dollars in damages and expenses for cleanup costs, resulting in several students have later been charged for these illegal actions.The majority of seniors are 18 or older by the time graduation comes and many don’t realize that a criminal charge for that creative senior prank can haunt their permanent record down the road as an adult.

Because of the end of the year decisions to carry out senior pranks, many students are often charged with crimes for theft, vandalism, trespassing, burglary, animal cruelty, or disorderly conduct. Oftentimes students injure themselves, and even other students and faculty members while trying to carry out these pranks.

For example in Peoria, IL mayhem ensued when an unknown substance suspected to be pepper spray was released into the air forcing 32 students to be taken to the hospital.

Recently, at Roanoke Rapids High School in North Carolina, officials were forced to close the school for cleanup after a senior prank caused “extensive damage” worth $8,000. This lead to several felony charges after senior’s toilet papered trees, spray painted doors and poured vegetable oil onto hallway floors.  

In Beatrice, Nebraska seniors poured 100lbs of birdseed on to the new artificial turf football field. Workers vacuumed up as much as they could, but some of the damage was irreparable. The school was forced to spend thousands of dollars to repair the field because the birdseed had gone into the fibers of the turf which could not be removed without pulling out all the crumbs of rubber that is meant to be there to support the turf.

Because of the end of the year decisions to carry out senior pranks, many students are often charged with crimes for theft, vandalism, trespassing, burglary, animal cruelty, or disorderly conduct. Oftentimes students injure themselves, and even other students and faculty members while trying to carry out these pranks.

Some may laugh at these stunts; but school administrators aren’t usually laughing because these pranks can become very disruptive and costly to the school district. Yes, the district has insurance to cover these costs, but some school districts may be self-insured or have large deductibles, which makes puts them on the hook for these costs. School administrators also understand that submitting an insurance claim can lead to increases in the insurance premium, thus taking away much needed funds to better educate the students or hire another much needed teacher.

As the end of the year approaches, so does the possibilities of senior pranks. School administrators will usually meet to discuss ways to deter pranks as they head into the month of May.

They recognize that most students don’t have malice intent and aren’t that mean-spirited, so they try to educate the students of the consequences of senior pranks.

School boards across the country have established stricter rules against senior pranks.  Some school districts have even imposed a zero tolerance for senior pranks, while other districts will try to encourage students to tell a staff member what is happening beforehand so that they can give feedback if it’s truly a bad idea.Some school districts will even have the students submit their ideas for prior approval.

As a parent with a senior in high school, you should also be actively reminding your kid of the consequences from senior pranks.  Tell them if they’re planning a senior prank then it shouldn’t be too disruptive, involve any vandalizing of school property, or put any students or teachers in harms way. No one wants to see their kid’s college plans get derailed over such shenanigans.

As a school principal, about the only advice I can give is to establish multiple student moles into the student body and reward them with their covert actions to head off an unwanted senior prank. It’s amazing what a student would do to get out of class for a day. I would also recommend switching up vehicles and parking spots every other day or so during the last month of May. If that’s not possible then you may want to consider car-pooling, biking, or catching Uber rides to and from school for those last four weeks before summer. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Be Safe My Friends

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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