Before they exit high school, some soon-to-be graduates leave one last mark on the institution they are graduating from.
Senior pranks, which are generally stunts pulled by seniors designed to amuse the school community, and often not school-sanctioned, have been going on for generations.
But sometimes teens take the tradition too far. For example, nearly half of the senior class at an Arkansas high school wasn’t allowed to attend graduation this month – and are even facing criminal charges – because of a prank that involved vandalism, according to a recent news report.
High school educators have differing opinions on these activities.
“We definitely worry about senior pranks every year,” says Peyton Chapman, principal of Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon. The administration meets each year to discuss how to deter pranks, since they’ve had some issues with pranks in the past.
She says her students are really great kids, but staff informs them of the consequences of senior pranks, including jeopardizing walking at graduation. Staff tries to completely discourage senior pranks, she says, but if they can’t completely prevent them, they try to encourage students to tell a staff member what is happening beforehand so they can give feedback if it’s a really bad idea.
Flat-out saying “no” can really challenge students to do bigger and worse things, she says.
Chapman says she can’t condone pranks, but sometimes seniors pull clever pranks that don’t hurt anyone or violate school policy. However, as a school principal, she doesn’t always have a say in whether the district will enforce a policy or police will press charges over of a prank, simply because she knows the students didn’t mean any harm or are good kids.
“I don’t like senior pranks,” says Scott Greupink, principal of Oostburg High School in Wisconsin. His school has not had a tradition of senior pranks, for which he is thankful. When there is a tradition, stunts tend to escalate, he says.
There have been a few small pranks at his school, but none have been mean-spirited or disruptive, he says.
“We don’t overreact to them,” he says. “But when we get the opportunity we just say, ‘We are not going to endorse this.’ We are not going to pretend we like it.”
Greupink says there’s a principal in his area who goes out of his way to approve senior pranks. He’s not in favor of that because he thinks it somewhat sanctions pranks and sends a mixed message.
Twitter users shared their opinions with U.S. News.
Yes ma’am. I want them to have fun & remember good times. They sort of know they need to “do the right thing” & not go too far
— Thomas M. Pond, Jr. (@TommyPond) May 26, 2016
When it comes to pranks, Chapman thinks students’ intent is generally good, but today there are often stricter policies.
“I think that they are trying to be funny, make the end of the year something memorable for them and their peers that when they get to their 20th or 50th class reunion they will have a great story,” she says.
View some senior pranks shared by social media users below.