Officials say end-of-school pranks are not big concern

As the academic year draws to a close, school officials say they have no plans to increase security to keep high school students on their best behavior.

They're confident, they say, that the threat of criminal prosecution and possibility of having to pay restitution for property damage provide ample deterrents to ill-advised pranks.

Julia Porter Stein, the Richmond County school system director of public safety, said she could recall no problems with senior pranks or vandalism, and schools have resource officers in place.

"We just remind all the officers of the potential of problems, and we just tell them to be more vigilant with what they normally do," she said.

In Columbia County, officials couldn't recall a serious incident since one at Lakeside High a decade ago, when several students were disciplined after they greased door knobs and ruined some of the locks, said Sandra Carraway, the deputy superintendent.

"It turned in to what we would call vandalism, and it was quite expensive to repair," she said.

The students were suspended and had to pay restitution to repair the damages, she said, and school administrators debated whether the students should be allowed to graduate.

"Because of that, senior pranks were really something that went by the wayside," she said. "We already have supervision that's pretty tight because of the challenges we have in our schools."

She also said students are more focused on end-of-course tests and Advanced Placement exams at this time of year.

"Student behavior problems tend to decrease because the end is in sight, and everyone is working hard to have a successful finish," Dr. Carraway said.

Kyle Smith, the North Augusta High School principal, said student pranks have not been a problem for many years.

"Because of the consequences, most of them realize that it's just not worth it," he said.

Mr. Smith said punishments could include barring seniors from participating in graduation, expulsion and arrest.

South Aiken High School Principal Janice Nashatker said pranks have not been an issue in her five years at the school.

However, she said, any graduating seniors who felt "compelled to leave their mark" could have their diplomas withheld until a later date. It would be ill-advised for underclassmen to play a prank, Dr. Nashatker said.

"They have to come back to us," she said. "We'll be waiting."

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.