At 8:44 a.m. Wednesday, the halls of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School were silent. Students were in their classrooms and studying for finals.
Then at 8:45 a.m., the distinct shrill sounds of buzzing, beeping cellphones and alarm clocks could be heard in classrooms near seniors’ lockers.
A “clever” senior prank.
Unbeknownst to the offending students, Principal Maryellen Symer had a master key to all the lockers and was able to confiscate the cellphones and alarm clocks to silence them. The rumor throughout the whole day was that the students would not get their cellphones back until graduation, two weeks away.
“They got them back at the end of the day, but they were scared,” district spokeswoman Christy Multer said.
The prank was harmless compared to the act of vandalism committed at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District the night before when students broke into the high school/middle school building and poured motor oil and cooking oil throughout the halls.
Classes were canceled for the day Wednesday as maintenance staff
worked to clean up the mess from the senior prank.
Symer said the BH-BL prank was “a disruption to learning, but not vandalism and didn’t jeopardize the safety of any students.”
Multer said the district draws a line between a prank and vandalism and the two are dealt with differently.
Administrators in school districts throughout the Capital Region are on the lookout for senior pranks in the last days of high school. This is the final week of regular classes at most high schools before testing begins next week.
At the Greater Amsterdam School District, high school administrators are watching and listening for any shenanigans as the school year ends.
One year, students for months hoarded packets of raisins that were sold at the school’s cafeteria. Administrators got wind that the students were planning to dump out the collected raisins throughout the halls at the end of the school year and quashed the prank, according to Superintendent Thomas Perillo.
The district doesn’t have a written policy against pranks, he said, but any activity that violates the district’s code of conduct will be dealt with accordingly.
Scotia-Glenville School District spokesman Robert Hanlon said the seniors rarely do anything in the last weeks of school. Occasionally a senior class will spray-paint the outside of a door or the press box at the athletic field.
Hanlon said the Scotia-Glenville High School was run by a strict principal until 1994, and the culture of being afraid of high school administrators has endured through the years.
“Our students just know that you don’t mess with or damage the building,” he said.
The challenge in punishing offending seniors is that they are graduating, so suspensions or other punishments that would typically carry over into the next school year for underclassmen don’t work for seniors. Offending seniors can still be punished, however, by not allowing them to participate in rite-of-passage senior activities like walking across the stage at graduation.
Karen Corona, spokeswoman for the Schenectady City School District, said nothing like a prank has happened at Schenectady High School in the last few years.
But the district would punish students who violate the district’s code of conduct through a prank, she said.
“Administrators are very clear with students in the weeks leading up to the end that if they do something the police could get involved [in] it could ruin their graduation,” she said.
BH-BL students are warned against pranks through a letter sent to each senior parent that advises about upcoming senior events including graduation, prom and the senior banquet.
The letter warns that any group activity that could lead to vandalism or inappropriate behavior could also lead to the student’s inability to participate in upcoming activities.
Multer said BH-BL has had its fair share of pranks in the 25 years she has worked there. Pranks have ranged from the enigmatic, like when students set up tents and a full-sized indoor pool in the courtyard, to the ostentatious, such as the year the students put a Volkswagen Beetle on the roof of the high school’s entrance.
By those standards, this year’s prank was minor.