Senior prank verges on criminal

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, April 18, 2013

When students arrived at Northside High School in Pinetown on Monday morning, they got a big surprise: a bit of end-of-the-year vandalism.

The exterior of the school building was in disarray: the campus toilet-papered, “Class of 2013” painted across windows, other markings on signs and windows, school entrances littered with broken eggs and in the parking lot, parking curbs moved.

The Sunday night incident is all part of a yearly cycle of senior pranks, but Northside might have toed the line on this one.

According to Maj. Kenneth Watson, spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Beaufort County Schools will ultimately determine how any suspects may be disciplined, but until then, the sheriff’s office will investigate the incident as it would any similar crime.

“We treat it like we would any other case,” Watson said. “We’ll work with Beaufort County Schools to determine what the appropriate action will be. But what happened at Northside was a crime. It required cleanup. That’s tantamount to injury to real property which would be a misdemeanor.”

Unlike more serious incidents — for example, the multiple bomb threats Southside High School experienced several years ago —the nature of the crime means BCS has the option to handle it internally. What makes the difference is the level of threat and required response, according to Watson.

“Any time you threaten someone’s safety, that’s a serious offense,” Watson said. “It involves considerable response from first responders.”

Rather than take a risk with senior pranks that could be construed as criminal, Watson had this to say to the Class of 2013: “We understand they’re excited about completing their high school education, but we want them to understand that their acts can be prosecuted as criminal acts, and be a part of their permanent criminal history. So we would want them to look for a more constructive way to use their excitement.”