My Vote for Dweebiest Superintendent of the Week

Hi Readers — So here’s the story: Five high school seniors in Indiana went into their school after hours, when it was officially off-limits, and decorated it with 10,000 Post-It notes. They used the notes to create a big, cheery “2012” on the gym floor, for instance.  They made bright patterns on the doors, and another big “2012” on some windows. And for this, they were suspended for two days (during finals) and the janitor who supervised them got fired.

What kills me most, though, is how the superintendent described the event: “It was just Post-It notes: no damage, thank goodness, occurred. Nobody was injured, thank goodness. It’s the unintended stuff that sometimes causes issues…”

Talk about Worst-First thinking! Instead of looking around and seeing student exuberance and a sizable dollop of initiative, he sees what could have happened: Damage! Injury! And the ever-dreaded “unintended STUFF”!

LIKE WHAT? When you leave “stuff” undefined, it looms as large as an explosion. How about looking at what DID happen? A burst of senior joy, and a couple of adults  (including a school board member who gave them the key to get in) who understood that these were good kids, doing something fun.

Yes, the kids were there without official permission. But if someone snuck into my office to decorate for a surprise party, I wouldn’t treat it as breaking and entering.

Then again, I’m not a school superintendent. – L.

Maybe these kids should be suspended, too? After all, they COULD start a food fight! There COULD be damage!

57 Responses

  1. A similar incident recently happened in Meridian, Idaho as well. The students were reluctantly given permission to participate in future senior activities and the employee that supplied the key was fired. When I read your post, I thought you were commenting on the Meridian incident– post it notes and all.

  2. When I was in high school, the senior prank was to find every real estate sign, portable sign etc. in the area and leave it in the school’s front yard. The year I graduated, a Kip’s Big Boy mascot ended up in the front. No one was suspended or even disciplined and eventually, everything was returned. Stealing Big Boy was probably a felony, but no one was charged.

  3. Goodness sakes… just make the kids clean up and don’t blow it out of proportion.

  4. At the school I went to senior pranks were expected. One year some seniors toliet papered the quad. I graduated in 2001 and live in ca. Although the pranks were a hassle to clean up no one was ever punished for them.
    This makes me fear for my 3 year olds childhood. Where as a society we fail to understand that kids are impulsive and lack the understanding of the consequences a child can do one childish thing and have it follow them all through school and worse life.

  5. When I was teaching high school a few years ago, some of my students were spearheading the senior prank. They offered to tell me what it was, but I declined, knowing that 1. I would get in administrative trouble if I knew and didn’t say anything and 2. I didn’t want to stop them, as I trusted that they wouldn’t do anything mean-spirited or cause permanent damage. What did they do? They went streaking through the most crowded part of the school at the busiest time of the day (in and around the cafeteria at lunch time). But here’s the thing: they didn’t even really streak – they were all wearing speedo-type bathing suits (and masks). So really, if they had been near the swimming pool running around, no one would have batted an eye. But instead, they all got in-school suspension for three days. Most of the teachers and I felt this was a severe overreaction. The sad part is, the kids expected to be caught and punished, and were relieved that it was just in-school, not out of school, suspension. 😦

  6. Kids are suspended (during finals) and the janitor gets fired over, basically, nothing. This is y the superintendent of the institution you’re supposed to trust to teach your kids critical thinking. They would have been better off in the care of a rodeo clown. Oh, wait .. they were.

  7. The senior prank at our high school EVERY year (clear back to when my parents went to school there) was to damn the large creek that ran through campus, causing it to over flow. Additional pranks included “stealing” the principle’s pigs & llamas (he had a small farm nearby) and letting them loose in the Commons. The whole town waited for the news report each year to verify that another class kept up the tradition.

    The thing that makes me most angry about the story you posted is the firing of the janitor. In this economy, that is a harsh blow. And all it does is discourage adults from ever wanting to help kids have a fun childhood. I have visions of Pink Floyd’s The Wall in my head now.

  8. There’s a word for people like that school superintendant: miserabilist.

  9. I wonder if this is more insurance-paranoia. Wasn’t there something a couple of years back about not being allowed to post kids’ artwork on the wall in a primary school, because of fire insurance rules?

    I mean, the kicker was probably the employee letting the kids in without authorization because after all they COULD HAVE BEEN arsonist-pedophile-bomber-shooters, and obviously no one without a college degree and a white collar salary is capable of telling the difference. But I wonder if the fact that someone pounded into the principal’s head the idea that pieces of paper on windows or walls constituted a fire hazard didn’t play in as well.

  10. Sad. Senior pranks are expected around here. Most without consequences…. now the kids who brought the live chickens in and let them run around got punished (too harshly in my eyes), but this would have been part of the expected stuff nobody cares about and even relishes in.

  11. And here is the website for the petty tyrants who run the school district. Let them know that you are unimpressed. This kind of petty tyrant doesn’t love bad publicity.
    Dr. Patrick Spray
    School Corporation
    (317) 539-9200
    6631 S County Rd. 200 W, Clayton, IN 46118

  12. *sigh*

  13. That’ll teach those kids to be creative!

  14. The Seniors used to steal the Mayfield cow and tow it up to the school and park it out front. It is a brown cow statue the size of a semi trailer. They stopped when Mayfield announced that they would start prosecuting because the “stunt” was starting to damage the cow. However our world have just become to uptight.

  15. At my niece’s school, a kid (8th grade) took the marine flare out of his parent’s boat (in an area where 40% of the population works on the water and knows the intended use,) and took it to school. “Somehow” the flare got lit on the bus.

    Everyone was able to get off the bus, a couple of kids were treated for smoke inhalation. A bus worth about $100,000 burned to the ground.

    THAT is worthy of a suspension. Post it notes, no. The janitor should have been given a reprimand and made to clean it up. After Yearbook took some photos.

  16. Wow. Talk about overreaction. The poor custodian!

  17. Our senior prank was to have a bunch of football players haul the shell of a old VW bug (that we had all graffitied) on top of the school – by hand, with chains – two stories up.

    Our principal was fully supportive and his only comment was that he was glad we never found the bus shell we actually wanted to use.

    He saw it as school spirit and proof of the creativity and ingenuity our educations had given us. In other words, it was proof he and his team had done their jobs well.

    Kills me that school officials are such bureaucrats now rather than educators, they can’t see the beauty and intelligence in what these kids did.

  18. Seen this?

    The URL says it all – the 6 year old walks to school alone, yesterday a big guy tried to walk off with him, the janitor asked “Do you know this man?”, the kid said “No”, and all is well. Today the mother thanked the janitor in person.

    The comments are full of “OMG ANYBODY WHO LETS THEIR KID NO MATTER HOW OLD WALK ALONE IS ABUSIVE!!!!” and while I concur that the exact situation depicted isn’t one I’d go with it’s all going haywire. Anybody want to help inject some sanity into the comments?

  19. The town needs to protest for the reinstatement of the janitor.

    Just who owns the school building anyway?

  20. That’s pretty tame as a senior prank and pretty celebratory for the seniors.

    Better than what happened at a near by high school in Oregon. Some kids decided to spill hand sanitizer all over a table and light it on fire. They nearly burned the school to the ground WHILE classes were in session. Luckily everyone got out safely.

    Now that was a dumb prank. The kids are now in police custody so suspension is the last thing on their mind, they’re looking at jail time for arson (although I don’t think they intentionally burnt the school down but their still complete idiots).

    Makes Post-it art look like… well, Post-it art. It doesn’t hurt anyone and actually boosts morale at the school. That’s the kind of prank the staff at my high school would have gotten behind (I have no clue if or what the Senior prank was at my school because that was the kind of thing that could keep you from graduating with your class… it was Catholic school).

  21. When I was in middle school, the senior class always had senior prank day. One year they filled the principal’s office with helium balloons and dixie cups filled with water. He couldn’t even walk in to remove the balloons without knocking over water. They always removed all chairs from the classrooms and spelled out Class of 1985 (or whatever the year was.) Students planned out senior pranks all through junior year. It was all harmless pranks that we (younger students looked forward too), like setting clocks back 2 hours, or removing them entirely, taking all the chalk … stuff like that. Seems like those Indiana students were just engaged in harmless fun. Something most educators have forgotten how to have.

  22. @Uly, I tried to register and post a comment, but it kept timing out on me. These people would think that parents everywhere else in the world are abusive because kids walk to school alone starting at age 6.

    Back to the topic at hand…At my son’s school, they have the equivalent of a senior prank called “Abistreich.” All of the 12th graders who took their Abitur (university entrance exams) do a different prank every year when exams are over. One year the 12th graders pelted everyone (teachers and students) with water balloons and squirt guns. Last year the stairwells and corridors were blocked off with yellow police tape. Anyone who broke the tape got into trouble. The 12th graders also “get back” at what their teachers did to them. For example, one math teacher who had students measure the school courtyard had to go outside and measure the courtyard with a 10 cm ruler. A teacher who was vain about his hair had to put washable coloring in his hair. The PE teachers had to get down in the hallway and do push-ups. Both the teachers and all of the students have a lot of fun with “Abistreich.” It’s a tradition that shows no signs of dying. The 12th graders organize it all, but everyone participates. It’s a day when everyone knows there will be no instruction.

    In Germany the drinking age is 16. Because most 12th graders are 18-19 years old, they are allowed to drink beer during “Abistreich.” The 12th graders share their beer with each other and also with the teachers.

  23. Was whoever gave them the key thrown off the school board? This whole thing is yet another overreaction, but it would be a complete case of discrimination if they treated the janitor differently than the other people involved.

    Actually, he should be treated differently. He supervised those kids to ensure their safety. He should have been commended — not fired.

    They want the kids safe, but they fire the people who make it happen. You can’t have it both ways…

  24. Union and/or civil service protections have sometimes been abused, forcing schools to keep incompetent or unmotivated employees. In this case, however, I hope the school is forced to give the janitor his job back, with all but a day or two’s back pay.

  25. From what I can tell, it wasn’t the janitor who supervised them who got suspended, but their superior, and also mother of one of the students, was the one who got fired. Not the one who was there, and not the school board member who gave them their key. I agree, there are a lot worse things that you could do for a senior prank. I don’t care for the fact that the article calls it a “serious prank”. No one was injured, no permanent damage was done, and they didn’t commit a B&E to do it. Just what part of the prank was “serious”?

  26. Ok, My son is a freshman at Cascade H.S., and I started receiving text messages from him while he was at lunch. Mom, you aren’t gonna believe what is going on….THe count was at 67 students suspended at that point. I went up to see what was going on, and it was unbelieveable!!! I went to the school, rang the bell, and was asked what I wanted. I told them that I wanted to pick my son up…was asked his name…they didn’t let me in to sign him out, didn’t ask my name, proof of id, NOTHING….said that they would call him and send him out. This is ridiculous!! The school is now on LOCKDOWN, and nobody is answering the phones…STUPID!!! #Team Sticky, we support you!!!

  27. This will never change until like minded parents run for school board and fight this nonsense. Enjoy the web site, but get out and do something!

  28. How on earth could post-it notes result in someone getting hurt?

  29. I don’t remember the exact story, but some district here on Long Island last year forbid senior pranksters from attending both prom and graduation because of what they did, even though it was across the street from school, not even on school property. very sad.

  30. Damage? Injury? From a creative use of Post-It Notes? I’m sorry, has someone died recently from paper cuts? Has someone experienced a fatal allergic reaction from the adhesive used in Post-Its? Were the colors of the Post-It Notes indicative of gang membership?

    This is absurd. It was a totally innocent, harmless prank in the long-held tradition of senior pranks. They were given a key, they didn’t steal one. They did no damage – they used post-its, not spray paint. There was nothing profane or offensive – they spelled out “2012” on the gym floor, not “F*CK YOU”.

    Crying out loud, lighten up! Make them clean it up (recycle and re-use those post-its, don’t just chuck them), remind them kindly they are not to be in the school after hours (wink), and move on.

    No. Nobody can think like that anymore. All school discipline comes down to either suspension or arrest.

    As one of the commentators on the news story said so eloquently, “That superintendent needs to get laid.”

  31. Let me get this straight-

    -They did not pick a lock or “bust” in any doors, windows or other openings to enter the building.
    -They did not remove any property from anyone (guessing they paid for the Post-Its).
    -They did not use any material that caused any damage (Post-Its don’t even leave residue)
    -They did not embarrass, defame or harm any person or group.
    -They did produce art that was easily removed (without any damage), improved morale and left a positive impression.

    The only thing wrong I see is calling it a prank. It wasn’t even mischievous. It was like sunshine, rainbows and unicorns came up with the idea. My great grandmother pranked the school in a more serious fashion . . . as a teacher.

  32. I think it’s crazy to overlook the fact that almost all seniors try to pull some kind of prank before the end of the year, and instead of doing something damaging or crude, they celebrated their classmates with paper! The person who probably would have been MOST affected by the Post-it prank was the janitor (who presumably will be chasing down tiny pieces of paper for weeks to come) and he was in on it! They got caught for a prank, so let it be seen that they went to the principle and got a talking to. But other than that, what is there really to punish?

  33. Hey post-it notes are dangerous. They can cause … papercuts and we all know how bad those hurt.


  34. gap_runner said…

    “@Uly, I tried to register and post a comment, but it kept timing out on me. These people would think that parents everywhere else in the world are abusive because kids walk to school alone starting at age 6.”

    You know the drill by now. “It’s different here.” Yeah, it’s different here. We haven’t had a war on our soil in nearly 150 years. We don’t actually (despite people’s paranoid fears) have kids snatched off the street for international sex trafficking. We don’t have kids kidnapped into guerrilla armies. We have a social structure where very, very few children “slip through the cracks” to the point where the authorities would never even notice if they went missing.

    I’m not saying everything’s perfect here, or even generally superior. But the things that make us “different” from a lot of places where children have more responsibility and freedom make us a SAFER place for children, not otherwise.

  35. The latest on this: 50 more students have been suspended for the temerity of protesting the suspension of the original five. Go here for the latest on this stupid superintendent’s decision:

  36. Another aspect of the exaggeration is that suspensions are not such a big deal. While it is easier now for a school to notify a college about a suspension, it is not nearly the life altering punishment some would like to make seem. You think a college is going to turn down $50k because one of its prized freshmen put post-its on his school? Come on.

    2 days off of school in the spring at the end of Senior year. Where do I sign up?

    We pulled lots of pranks but we knew we might get in trouble. That’s the point. As long as the punishment is in keeping with the “crime” you can hardly expect (and shouldn’t want) a school to condone the behavior. Lenore got this one right. The excuse about danger is sad/sickening. The punishment, what did you expect the school to do?

  37. Brian, out-of-school suspensions can count as absences. In schools in my area if a student has more than 10 absences they automatically fail the semester. If they appeal the failure they must have a doctor’s note *already on file* for all but two of the non-suspension related absences. If a teacher messed up the roll (as often happened to us journalism and performing arts students) you were screwed. Seniors are allowed to exempt up to three final exams in classes they have maintained an A for the entire semester and as long as they have fewer than 3 absences for the semester (providing their GPA for all classes that semester are at least a 3.0). While giving up the privilage of exempting a few exams is the price you pay for pulling a prank, failing shouldn’t be.

    An in-school suspension does not count as an absence.

  38. Thanks, Uly, for the aneurism I just got reading the comments on that article you linked to.

  39. You’re welcome, Mollie! I just wanted to share the love! (Is your name intended to be lowercase and it’s rude to do it uppercase, btw? If so, I’ll try to remember next time.)

  40. What a toolbox. Wish I could fill his office with styrofoam peanuts and shut the door.

  41. P.S. I think the 3M Corporation (who make Post-It Notes) should intervene on behalf of the students.

  42. Wow, that’s a pretty tame and harmless (and I think rather cool) senior prank to me. Like many other posters my high school had a long and expected tradition of senior pranks. My mom went to the same high school as I did and my grandfather taught there for uears so I got to hear about a bunch of them. Were some of them dangerous and/or completely inapropriate? Sure, like when my mom was a student there they locked all the teachers/administrators in the rotundra during an inservice meeting, talk about a fire/safety hazard! Or when my brother’s senior class hung a dummy dressed like the (well disliked) vice principal with a foul name on a placard around it’s neck from an outhouse hung outside the senior lounge windows. But some were totally epic too, like turning the glass dome roof of the libary upside down and filling it with goldfish, or letting a veritable barnyard of farm animals loose in the administrator’s office, complete with placards of the various administrator’s names (the ‘principal’ was a goat).

  43. […] My Vote for Dweebiest Superintendent of the Week ( Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  44. With any luck or common sense the custodian will have his job back and the superintendent would be fired. If I were a parent of one of those kids, that would be my goal.

  45. I’ve seen far worse pranks done to cubicles at a Fortune 500 company while the occupant was on sabbatical. As long as there was no permanent property damage, anything was OK.

    They filled cubes with golfballs, with expanding shipping foam (after lining the cube with protective plastic), removed furniture and filled cube with plastic packing peanuts …. and no one got fired.

  46. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but here’s why there did have to be some action taken. Students are not supposed to be in the building outside of school hours, meaning when the usual complement of adults is present. Thsi is for safety reasons, and also because there is a long, long history of vandalism being done in school buildings after hours, as well as injury that could have led to a lawsuit. For a school board member and a janitor to take it upon themsleves to violate this rule was way beyond stupid, and they should have known better. Were they prepared to accept liability for injury or damage? Don’t think so. The kids, although they would have been told as Freshmen that they should not be in the building after hours, were after all kids. There should have been some consequence for them too. Not, of course, suspending their supporters.

  47. EB, are you a troll from the school board?

    “Thsi is for safety reasons, and also because there is a long, long history of vandalism being done in school buildings after hours, as well as injury that could have led to a lawsuit.”

    This is a classic example of ‘worst first’ thinking. It’s not like firearms and machetes are stored at the school. What are they going to do, poison themselves eating paste?

    There did not HAVE to be some action taken. People chose to take action, and chose to put the worst possible interpretation of imagined risk and transgression on a pretty innocent prank. And the people who CHOSE to take this set of absurdly overblown actions should now feel the full heft of the consequences for their abject stupidity. I hope they are enjoying their internet $hitstorm, and I hope the parents in this district don’t let themselves be distracted by imaginary dangers and wildly disproportionate reactions and punishments. The kids really didn’t do anything of substance wrong. Don’t let anyone make you argue it on any other basis.

    And values? Wanna talk about values? This incident teaches kids 3 things:

    1) The only people who work in the school system are IQ 90 unimaginative tools;

    2) to have contempt for rules and authority generally, as minor rules are enforced punitively and unnecessarily;

    3) That obedience is the highest value. Not good judgment, not good sense, not kindness, not honesty, not generosity, not courage, not good fellow-feeling for one’s classmates, but obedience. EB, obedience is for dogs, not for kids. This whole fiasco was caused not because someone ‘had to’ punish these kids for the ‘terrible’ thing they did, but because of overreaction in defense of King Patrick Spray and the principal’s sacred authority. And really, is that what you all are paying property taxes for?

  48. EB, there is an even longer history of kids getting into that kind of trouble during school hours, and on properties other than school grounds. Maybe we should keep all kids on house arrest just in case. Just because something has been known to happen in the past, that doesn’t mean all students must forever be punished for it.

    Also, where I went to school, kids were on school property outside of school hours for all kinds of reasons. Extracurriculars being the obvious ones, non-school community activities, detention and community service, and even having to come back to get the homework they forgot to take home. The only vandalism I’m aware of was done during school hours, usually by a troubled, attention-seeking student.

    These were five seniors (not really “kids,” even) and there was at least one adult present. Did they disobey? Yes, isn’t that the whole point of a senior prank?? But they didn’t do anything that would have been a big problem if done during school hours. They should be allowed to take their finals.

    Personally, as a taxpayer and member of the community, I consider myself and my kids to be part owners of the local schools. I cannot see it as a crime if I enter a school building for a completely harmless purpose. Especially if a school official had given me a key for that very purpose!

  49. EB, the seniors didn’t do anything wrong. They got permission not only for their action (the sticky notes) but also for the timing (after school). Punishing them only sends the message not to bother getting permission or doing something positive because you will be punished because some people can’t distinguish dangerous and malicious from outside the box and fun.

    Just because the superintendent (who has been accused online of pulling some shady antics in his position of authority) can’t manage logical thought does not make what the janitor on duty, the head janitor nor the school board member did wrong. They all assessed the students’ request and the situation and made decision based on facts, not wild what-ifs. The only thing wrong is that this yahoo is still allowed to make decisions that effect the education of the district’s students. The mere fact that he fired an employee he didn’t have the authority to fire shows he isn’t making informed, intelligent decisions.

  50. Ooooh, Heather G, please spill. What is the superintendent being accused of? Where? Details, details!

  51. Darn. I guess he would rather they go out on a binge-drinking and driving jag. The supervisor is an idiot. Why aren’t the parents rallying to get him disciplined? Bueller? Bueller?

  52. lorikay4, read the comments on this article. It’s like the plot to a really bad soap opera.,0,2544658.column

  53. From the comments thread on the fox news link from Heather G above:

    “He is married to one of his middle school students and she babysat his kids. At the time, the assistant superintendent at Cascade was let go because of a “lack in budget”. Funny thing is that when he became involved with the daughter of Jill Jay (who was a principal at the time) Spray hired his lovers mother to be his new assistant superintendent. (Suddenly there was enough money in the budget???) Isn’t it a conflict of interest to have the Super and Assistant Super related????”

    Dr. Patrick Spray keeps it classy, apparently. So he has been married at least 2x, and wife #2 is a previous middle school student and babysitter for family #1? With a topping of nepotism?

    I love this! Brilliant! And this clown is telling people he has the good judgment to apply the rules to other people? Sigh.

  54. I saw that comment about the guy’s private life, but anonymous internet commenters can say anything, true or not. I am sure he has some skeletons like the rest of us, but it’s up to the local folks to vet him IMO.

  55. “Thsi is for safety reasons, and also because there is a long, long history of vandalism being done in school buildings after hours, as well as injury that could have led to a lawsuit.”
    This is a classic example of ‘worst first’ thinking. It’s not like firearms and machetes are stored at the school. What are they going to do, poison themselves eating paste?”

    The part about injuries is worst first thinking. After hour school vandalism costing many thousands of dollars to repair is extremely common. We deal with several cases every year. It is generally the only reason anyone would be in school after the doors are locked. In fact, THIS was vandalism. It was just vandalism that we consider cute and mostly harmless (except that they’ll probably still be cleaning up some of the post-its next year).

    “Also, where I went to school, kids were on school property outside of school hours for all kinds of reasons.”

    Yes, during times when the school was unlocked and school personnel was present. Not after everyone had gone home and the doors were locked.

    “Personally, as a taxpayer and member of the community, I consider myself and my kids to be part owners of the local schools. I cannot see it as a crime if I enter a school building for a completely harmless purpose. Especially if a school official had given me a key for that very purpose!”

    Give that theory a whirl sometime and see where you end up.

    And I seriously doubt that this school board member had the authority to give a key to students for any purpose whatsoever. And the kids probably knew that. If fact, there was probably a lot of begging and pleading that went into obtaining that key. A firing offense? I’m not making a call on that one but I can say that I’d likely lose my job if I were handing out my key to people and letting them come in after hours even if they do nothing wrong. Worth seniors missing finals for? No, but definitely something that I can appreciate the school thinking “This was mostly harmless but not everyone has great judgment so we need to make it clear that this is not okay.”

  56. […] Folks! Here’s an update on today’s story about the five seniors suspended from Indiana’s Cascade High School for decorating it, at […]

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