High School Graduates (Getty)
McLean, VA (written by Gary Strauss/USA Today) -- The end of the school year is bringing out the class clowns.
Graduating seniors at Connecticut's Simsbury High School plopped four goats on the rooftop of a school entryway. At Heritage High in Brentwood, Calif., near San Francisco, they smeared paint on walkways and chained a lamb to a light pole. And at Herndon High in suburban Washington, D.C., they slicked up school floors and staircases with baby oil.
No one has dropped a horse, Animal House style, in Dean Wormer's office just yet - but there has been a Bluto-inspired cafeteria food fight at Texas' Smithville High School and similar food fights - along with unleashed snakes, rats and insects - at three high schools in Keller, Texas.
At Indiana's Cascade High, students plastered 12,000 Post-it Notes. Departing seniors at suburban Pittsburgh's Freedom Area High put up 3,000 balloons inside the school during a midnight raid.
It's unclear whether there are more school pranksters this year, or they're merely more audacious and getting more exposure on YouTube and other social media websites.
Fed-up school administrators have been cracking down. Four seniors at Georgia's Greenbrier High were arrested for squirting glue into the locks of nearly four dozen school doors. They were suspended and blocked from graduation ceremonies. They won't receive diplomas until they cover more than $5,100 in repairs.
A "flash mob" event at James B. Conant High School in suburban Chicago led to the arrests of three students on charges of disorderly conduct after a group of kids refused to disperse from school hallways. And while the balloon-bearing Freedom Area High seniors entered the school through unlocked doors, their mugging for security cameras proved no laughing matter; 24 were cited for trespassing, and each was fined more than $300.
Heritage High Principal Larry Oshodi suspended 25 students for the lamb and paint pranks, which prevented them from taking final exams and participating in last week's graduation ceremony. Oshodi did not respond to calls for comment.
Herndon High wound up suspending six students on safety grounds for the baby oil incident, which coincided with vandals spray-painting walls and pulling fire alarms, causing evacuations and disruptions the same day students were taking final exams. Three were banned from last week's graduation.
Some schools are cracking down even on relatively benign pranks. In Michigan, 65 Kenowa Hills High seniors were suspended for violating a "no pranks" mandate on their final day of school. Their crime: a mass 3-mile bicycle ride to campus. Principal Katie Pennington, who said the teens tied up traffic and delayed the Grand Rapids school's opening, later apologized, saying she blew the prank out of proportion.
Police and principals continue to navigate a time-honored ritual that may appear to be good, clean fun but could have repercussions. While Simsbury police dropped their investigation into the goat heist, "There's a bigger picture to pranks like these," Simsbury Police Lt. Fred Sifodaskalakis says. "They could affect the rest of your life."
"My rule is as long as they're in good fun and they don't damage the facility, I don't mind them," Liberty High Principal Jeffrey Geihs says. Seniors at the Henderson, Nev., school removed two large metal bells from the campus quad to a second-floor staircase. Geihs took it in stride. That was tame compared with a 2005 prank seniors played at his former school: They maneuvered an old pickup up to a second floor and painted it with a salutation to Geihs.
"I was quite flattered," he says. "As long as they don't destroy anything and it doesn't require a lot of resources to clean up, it's much better to embrace these things than to react with a punitive iron fist."
Some pranks can spur creativity and end-of-the-year relief from the pressures of rigid, overly structured academic environments.
"A clever prank where nothing is destroyed is a nice way to say farewell to the constrained school world a lot of these kids have been in," says Neil Steinberg, author If at all Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks. "A good prank is a sign of an active, whimsical mind."