Sunday, May 19, 2024

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School officials warning ABSS students about potential consequences for any 2024 ‘senior pranks’


82 seniors were suspended, missed their graduations after involvement in high school vandalism/”senior pranks” in 2023

With approximately 24 days left in the school year, before the more than 1,300 graduating seniors walk across the stage to collect their diplomas, Alamance-Burlington school officials say they are warning the class of 2024 about the potential consequences they face if they carry out the kind of “senior pranks” that some of their predecessors did around this time last year.

Some members of the Class of 2023 didn’t get to attend their graduation ceremonies after they were identified as having participated in senior pranks – which school officials characterized as a familiar rite of passage that got out of control – left thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, to varying degrees, at all six ABSS high schools during the night of May 25, 2023. (The county’s newest high school, Southeast, had not yet opened.)

“High school principals have communicated expectations and consequences to the class of 2024 with multiple reminders since the beginning of the school year and in communications to senior parents,” ABSS interim public information officer Jenny Faulkner recently told The Alamance News.

Then-superintendent Dr. Dain Butler announced at a June 1, 2023 press conference that 82 seniors would be prohibited from attending their commencement exercises, most of which were held just days later, between June 7 and June 9.  Seniors who were barred from attending graduation were told they could pick up their diplomas the following week, ABSS officials said at the time.

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ABSS officials had initially estimated the cost to repair the damages from senior pranks at more than $4,000 to repair but said they didn’t know the total price tag.

[Story continues below photos.]

Damage from some of 2023 “senior pranks”

Most serious damage from “senior pranks” in 2023 occurred when students poured cement into eight toilets and six urinals at Williams High School. Five students were criminally charged, but their cases have not yet come to court.
Above and two photos below at Southern High School.

Most notable was the damage left when teenage vandals poured cement into eight toilets and six urinals at Williams High School on the night of May 25, 2023.  Also at Williams High School, baby powder was smeared on the gym floor; profane signs and balloons were hung throughout the school; trees were rolled in toilet paper; and mulch and balloons were strewn throughout hallways.

The extent of the pranks at Southern High School was equally shocking, though that school had actually been vandalized a week earlier.

Documents that ABSS furnished in June 2023 in response to a public records request by The Alamance News revealed that Teresa Faucette, then-principal at Southern High, had given her students permission to be on campus the night of May 18 so they could do their “senior pranks” – and even had sheriff’s deputies on hand to supervise while they were happening.

Most of the senior pranks at the four other ABSS high schools consisted of silly string and toilet paper strewn about the high school campuses; buildings that had been “egged”; and furniture overturned and/or moved outside, based on photos taken by school officials.

“We don’t have a total dollar amount since the work hasn’t been completed,” Les Atkins, then-PIO for the school system, told the newspaper last June.  “The money that students/families pay in restitution will go back into local funds [the fund balance within the general fund] to cover costs.”

Criminal charges were later against five students who were believed to have broken into and vandalized Williams High School in May 2023.  All five defendants’ cases remain pending in Alamance County criminal district court.

Though security cameras are installed at all of the high schools and helped identify some of the students who participated in the pranks in May 2023, no charges appear to have been filed in connection with senior pranks at any other high school except Williams.

In the case of Southern High School, sheriff Terry Johnson said his hands were tied because those students had been given permission by their principal, Faucette, to be on campus to do the pranks the night of May 18.


Cases stemming from pranks at Williams High School still pending

The five defendants (whose current ages are not listed in their court files) and their charges are:

  • Cameron Lee Cheek, white, male, of 770 Boone Station Drive, Apartment E, Burlington; one count each of misdemeanor breaking/entering and injury to real property; next court date June 11, 2024;
  • Jacob William Church, white, male, of 582 Pimlico Circle, Whitsett; one count each of misdemeanor breaking/entering and injury to real property; next court date June 11;
  • Ethan Alexander Clements, white, male, of 2223 Fire Tower Road, Snow Camp; one count each of misdemeanor breaking/entering and injury to real property; next court date June 11;
  • Benjamin Joseph Ouzts, white, male, of 2312 Somers Avenue, Burlington; one count each of misdemeanor breaking/entering and injury to real property; next court date June 11;
  • Alex Masao Solari, white, male, of 1320 Branson Drive, Graham; one count each of misdemeanor breaking/entering and injury to real property; next court date June 4, 2024.

All five defendants had been charged by the Burlington police department on May 30 and May 31, 2023; their cases have been continued multiple times since, according to their court files.

In a June 2023 interview with The Alamance News, one parent from Eastern High School had alluded to the possibility of filing a lawsuit, over what she believed was Butler’s inconsistent approach to disciplining students who’d participated in the pranks.  To date, no such lawsuit has been filed, based on Alamance County court records.  Butler resigned as superintendent on March 4.

In response to a subsequent inquiry from The Alamance News, seeking additional details about what kind of measures are being contemplated to prevent a repeat of the magnitude of the senior pranks carried out last year, school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves said, “We had asked that administrators be reminded to have a proactive conversation with our upcoming graduates.

She added, “I would hope that senior pranks aren’t on anyone’s radar after last year.”

Ellington-Graves previously confirmed for the newspaper that her youngest child is scheduled to graduate from Southern High School next month.

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