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‘Senior pranks’ cont.: SHS principal gave students permission to ‘decorate’; deputies were asked to be there but not interfere

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Midnight shenanigans OK’d by principal, who violated ABSS policy by allowing students on campus without staff present 

The Alamance News has learned that at least one principal, Teresa Faucette, the outgoing principal at Southern High School, had given her students permission to be on campus overnight late last month so they could do “senior pranks” – and even had sheriff’s deputies on hand to supervise while they were happening.

Southern High School principal Teresa Faucette, who is retiring as SHS principal.

A subsequent investigation by Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson has revealed that the “senior pranks” occurred at Southern High School on May 18, a week earlier than those that left more than $4,000 in damage at other ABSS high schools the night of May 25.

Faucette announced earlier this year that she would retire as principal of Southern High School, effective June 30, based on the semi-monthly personnel report that Alamance-Burlington school board members approved on March 27.

ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler confirmed for the newspaper Tuesday afternoon that Faucette’s last day remains scheduled for June 30.

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Johnson said this week that his investigation revealed that deputies were on the scene at Southern High School between 11:40 p.m. Thursday, May 18 and 2:30 a.m. Friday, May 19, when the senior pranks occurred. “These deputies were at Southern High School in response to a request made by Principal Teresa Faucette, through the school resource officer, for extra patrol from the Alamance County sheriff’s office,” Johnson confirmed for the newspaper.

“Faucette stated to the school resource officer that the students had obtained her permission to be on campus at or around 12:00a.m. on [May 18] for the purpose of the ‘senior prank’ event. This was verified by Sheriff Johnson in a subsequent interview with Faucette.”

“Faucette stated to the school resource officer that the students had obtained her permission to be on campus at or around 12:00a.m. on [May 18] for the purpose of the ‘senior prank’ event,” the sheriff told the newspaper Tuesday. “This was verified by Sheriff Johnson in a subsequent interview with Faucette.”

The school resource officer at Southern High School, Alamance County sheriff’s deputy William (“W.D.”) Lowe, notified his supervisors of Faucette’s request for extra deputies in an email he sent at 4:38 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, based on a copy of the email obtained by The Alamance News through a public records request filed with the sheriff’s office.

Lowe sent the email on May 18 to sheriff’s lieutenant Zachary Ray; deputy Krystal Neil, one of the supervisors for the SROs that the sheriff’s department furnishes to ABSS schools in its jurisdiction; and Lt. Michael (“Brandon”) Mays, who is in charge of all of the SROs furnished by the sheriff’s department.

In his email, Lowe stated that Faucette had requested extra patrol that night, writing, “She has given the seniors permission to decorate the Senior Circle at the school as a senior prank (possibly [bringing] old broken appliances setting them out, sidewalk chalk, and or streamers).”

Photos that ABSS officials released last week, however, revealed that the so-called senior pranks went much further than simply decorating the senior circle at the center of the campus.

Instead, Southern High School students stacked outdoor dining tables into a pyramid in order to perch a moped on top of one of the roofs, left a pool of dead fish behind a wrestling mat inside the gym, and deposited an old refrigerator and clothes dryer in the senior circle, among other “pranks,” based on a breakdown ABSS furnished earlier this month.

[Story continues below photos of Southern “senior pranks.”]

 

SRO at Southern said seniors planned to ‘decorate’ senior circle
Other photos that later circulated on social media also showed several individuals at Southern High School holding up dead chickens during the “senior pranks,” the newspaper has been told.

Those reports differ substantially from the way Lowe had characterized the “pranks” that were sanctioned by Faucette in his email the afternoon of May 18.

“They might be on campus around [midnight] tonight,” Lowe wrote. “They are not allowed to destroy or damage any school property per [Faucette’s] conversation with him.” Lowe also told his supervisors in the sheriff’s department that deputies were to contact the principal or assistant principal Paul Kuczkowski if there were any issues.

“She [Faucette] advised that she did give them permission to be on campus and that there would not be an administrator on campus with them per my conversation with her,” Lowe wrote in his email to Ray, Neil, and Mays. “She did request extra patrol as time and call volume allowed.”

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Deputies who were on scene at Southern High School overnight between May 18 and 18 contacted Faucette twice to try to get her to come to the school, but she refused, Johnson told the newspaper this week.

An ABSS policy, which follows state and federal laws, requires students to be “reasonably supervised while in the care and custody of the school system,” including before, during, and after school, while on school property and at school events.

 

Sheriff’s deputies hamstrung
Johnson told The Alamance News this week that, because Faucette had given her students permission to be at the school overnight between May 18 and May 19, state law precluded him from filing any criminal charges against the students who participated in the senior pranks at Southern High School.

Additionally, sheriff’s deputies pointed to a North Carolina statute that defines willful and wanton destruction of property, N.C.G.S. 14-160. Deputies considered that they would be hamstrung inasmuch as Faucette had given the students permission to be on the campus after hours.

“Deputies on scene stated that they did not observe any criminal activity of the type later discovered inside the school,” the sheriff said in a statement.

He noted, “While on scene, deputies stated that they observed students placing bicycle locks on doors and plastic wrap on entrance ways to the school. Deputies who noted this activity had the involved students remove these hazards from the school entrances.”

“Deputies on scene stated that they did not observe any criminal activity of the type later discovered inside the school.  While on scene, deputies stated that they observed students placing bicycle locks on doors and plastic wrap on entrance ways to the school. Deputies who noted this activity had the involved students remove these hazards from the school entrances.” – Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson

 

It was also unclear whether some of the more serious of the pranks were done before or perhaps after the sheriff’s deputies left the school.

“Deputies on scene stated that they did not observe any criminal activity of the type later discovered inside the school,” the sheriff said in a statement.

He noted, “While on scene, deputies stated that they observed students placing bicycle locks on doors and plastic wrap on entrance ways to the school. Deputies who noted this activity had the involved students remove these hazards from the school entrances.”

For instance, there is no report of students having entered the building while sheriff’s deputies were present, but subsequent damage inside the school was later reported, the sheriff elaborated this week.

 

Superintendent says SHS principal ignored protocol
For his part, Butler insisted this week that Faucette had never informed him, either before or afterwards, about the senior pranks at Southern High School. “No, we did not know,” Butler told The Alamance News Tuesday afternoon in a joint interview with school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves.

Both Butler and Ellington-Graves said they had no idea about the pranks at Southern or any of the other ABSS high schools until the morning of May 25, when the more than $4,000 in damage – caused by cement poured into eight toilets and six urinals – was discovered at Williams High School.

Butler said neither Faucette nor any other school principal has the unilateral authority to request extra patrols at their schools. Instead, the superintendent said, “They should work through the chief operations officer [Greg Hook] if they need assistance with extra staff.”

Asked why it had taken so long for him to find out, Butler said in the interview, “We found out about all of the senior pranks after [the extent of the damage at] Williams became public” the Friday before Memorial Day, May 26.

The school board chairman recalled in the interview Tuesday that the board and administration began “hearing more and more” about the senior pranks after students returned from the Memorial Day holiday, on Tuesday, May 30, prompting the board to hold a press conference, on June 1, to address the situation.

“In my past two years on the board, nothing like this has ever happened,” said Ellington-Graves.

Ellington-Graves has previously told the newspaper that, while her daughter is a rising senior at Southern, neither she nor her daughter knew anything about the senior pranks.
The board chairman also volunteered that, while attending a function at Southern High School late last month, she had noticed some toilet paper dangling from a tree in the senior circle and asked her daughter about it, but she knew nothing.

Butler and Ellington-Graves said in the interview Tuesday they had no idea where the moped, refrigerator, or clothes dryer had come from when they were deposited on the campus as part of the so-called senior pranks.

Faucette had not responded to an inquiry from The Alamance News by press time Wednesday night.

Her final salary as principal at Southern High School was $138,844 per year, based on information that ABSS furnished in response to a public records request by The Alamance News.
Johnson described the response of the three deputies who had been at Southern as a “personnel matter,” which he had addressed.

In an interview, Johnson alluded to the failure to have notified superiors up the chain of command about the request for additional deputies and the purposes for which they were being sought as failures, or lapses in judgment.

“If I had known about it, I wouldn’t have allowed it,” he said. “We’re not providing babysitting for this.”


Read our editorial page views on principal Teresa Faucette’s culpability in the “senior pranks” at Southern High School: https://alamancenews.com/some-principals-should-probably-also-have-been-banned-from-graduation/

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