Students barred from attending graduation as punishment for ‘senior prank’

Updated: Apr. 8, 2019 at 8:50 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Parents of some Sophie B. Wright students hope to send a message to the school’s principal after a number of students were banned from going to their own graduation ceremony. It comes after administrators say a so-called senior prank went too far. Yet, their parents say their kids worked too hard to have that special day taken away from them.

“Honestly, I just want to graduate,” said suspended student Kenwyante Jones.

One Sophie B. Wright senior is fighting to attend his graduation ceremony. He and others were involved in what students called a prank, but what administrators insist caused injury to two people and “compromised a school bathroom."

"It was a senior prank. How many high schools do you know of that have a senior prank? All of them," said suspended student Kariell Bass.

But the school didn’t see it that way. Students say some of their senior classmates were expelled, others were suspended for five days and were banned from future senior activities, including prom and the graduation ceremony.

“I think it was just a harsh, cruel punishment,” said Bass’ mom, Rebecca Soloman.

Students sent us video of the alleged prank. You can see students spraying squirt guns. Other video shows students running through a hallway, but seniors we spoke to say most of the water gun soaking and water balloon throwing took place outside in a side yard.

We showed the video to some of the parents whose children were punished.

“It looks like they’re having fun. They’re kids. They’re 17, 18 years old. This is the last real day of their childhood,” said another mother.

Yet, according to Sophie B. Wright Principal Sharon Clark, administration knew about seniors’ possible plans and warned them there would be consequences for their actions.

A public relations company representing the school also sent out a statement indicating the high school posted something on its website sending a similar message.

Students admit they were told not to carry out their alleged prank but say the consequences weren’t specified, and tell us they couldn’t have imagined they’d be so severe.

“I worked this hard to prove something to my family. I’m going to be the first grandchild to graduate. I’m going to be my mother’s first child to graduate,” Bass said.

Parents insist they should’ve been better briefed about what could happen if their kids participated in such activities.

Now, they say they won't back down.

"I will fight for my child. I'm not going to give up. I'm going to stand by my child. I looked at the video. I didn't see my child doing anything wrong," Soloman explained.

The statement credited to Sharon Clark indicates personal injury and the effects on school property are still under investigation. It goes on to say “it is possible damage caused by these students will result in criminal and civil actions.”

The PR company representing the school says it’s unclear how many students were punished for the prank.

Parents of some of the seniors affected are working together to figure out their next move. They’re hoping the principal will come up with an alternative punishment for their students that’s less severe, like two-day-suspension or community service.

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