Alamance-Burlington school superintendent Dr. Dain Butler has announced that 83 seniors across the county will not be allowed to attend their respective high school graduation ceremonies, based on their involvement in so-called “senior pranks” across the county that did significant damage to school buildings.
In a press conference Thursday, Butler said he expects that number to rise as the school system’s investigation into the damage continues.
FRIDAY UPDATE: School officials have responded to an Alamance News question about whether any athletes would be affected by the end-of-year suspensions and, specifically, whether any students on either of the teams in state championship games this weekend would be affected. ABSS has confirmed that one athlete would be ineligible to participate this weekend and that “multiple student athletes” were part of the “senior pranks” that drew disciplinary action from the superintendent. Eastern’s girls’ soccer team and Western’s softball team are each slated to participate in their respective state championship games in Greensboro. However, no students from Western (or Cummings) had been sanctioned, as of a a press conference held Thursday afternoon.
The 83 seniors are both suspended from campus for the remainder of the academic year, as well as being restricted from participation in graduation ceremonies later this month.
So far, seven students, all involving vandalism at Williams High School, have been charged with crimes – all with breaking and entering and injury to real property, both misdemeanors. There students poured cement down eight toilets and six urinals; school officials have put the damage to the Williams toilets at $4,000.
The distribution of students prohibited from attending graduation is, so far: 42 from Williams (out of 320 graduating seniors); 27 at Eastern (out of 312 seniors); 7 at Graham High School (out of 247); and 7 at Southern (out of 350 graduating seniors). No seniors have yet been reported to be involved at Cummings or Western high schools, which have 277 and 261 graduating seniors, respectively.
Meanwhile, three underclassmen have also been suspended for the remainder of this school year and will be recommended for additional consequences under the school system’s code of conduct.
Butler said that if particular damage could be attributed to individual students, restitution would be sought.
Butler reiterated his commitment to a “zero tolerance” policy, which he announced last September, as a commitment to ending violence on school campuses.
Butler was unapologetic during a press conference on Thursday afternoon about the seriousness of the disruption and damage done to school facilities and his response to it.
In a statement distributed by the school system, the following was included: “The disruption of learning, monetary costs to our district, extra burden on our facilities team and, at several campuses, the disregard for student safety simply cannot be tolerated.”
“If you’re on our campus after hours, and without permission or a reason to be there,” he said, “you’re trespassing.” He later added in speaking of the severity of the damage, especially at Williams, “You don’t damage our property.”
In response to a question, Butler said the school system would not seek out or attempt to influence colleges who may have offered scholarships to any of the seniors who are being disciplined for their “senior pranks.” At the same time, he said the information would be a part of their permanent record and would be accessible to colleges.
One Eastern High School senior called the newspaper Thursday afternoon to complain about the severity of the punishment, saying that the principal, Dr. Whitney Fliehman, had told students that if they cleaned up the mess they had made, there would be no further consequences.
Asked about that description, Butler said, if in fact the principal had made such a statement, he would be having a conversation with the school principal.
“It’s the right decision,” Butler concluded about his response to the vandalism on high school campuses. He and school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves, also emphasized that the tough response is intended to “send a message,” in Ellington-Graves’ words.
Butler said he was “appreciative” that some of the students and their parents had expressed remorse for their actions, but Butler said that didn’t change the necessity for his action.
See other coverage in this week’s edition:
Seven arrested for damage at Williams High School: https://alamancenews.com/burlington-police-arrest-seven-in-connection-with-williams-high-school-vandalism/
A description of the damage across six county high schools: https://alamancenews.com/vandals-probably-high-school-seniors-leave-thousands-in-property-damage-at-williams-other-abss-high-schools/