YatPundit (yatpundit) wrote,
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YatPundit: Lessons to be learned from practical jokes

In February, it was the "Lite Brite" scare in Boston. Last week, it was 150 alarm clocks planted in a high school in Westchester County, NY:

It's senior prank season, and this was the plan for the last day of classes Monday at Hendrick Hudson High School, not far from the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County, north of New York City:

Seniors went to three dollar stores and bought about 150 alarm clocks in the shape of houses or butterflies, which would be scattered throughout the school.

They would be wrapped in duct tape, so teachers could not shut them off by removing their batteries, and set for 9:15. And when they went off, the seniors would rise and march triumphantly outside to acknowledge that the fat lady - or at least her alarm clock - had sung. They had made it through high school.

During and after both incidents, the powers-that-be have over-reacted. In Boston, the toy light-up boards were thought to be bombs. Police and the mayor's office came off looking very foolish when they turned out to be items easily purchased at Toys R Us. At Hudson High School, the administration also made fools of themselves:

But there were two big differences. First, the students broke into the school Sunday night to deposit the clocks, using a key that officials knew had been missing for a year. Second, when the police responded to an alarm and found the clocks wrapped in duct tape, state troopers and bomb-sniffing dogs descended on the school, worried that the devices might be explosives.

But wait a minute. How did the teachers know the clocks were sealed with duct tape to keep the batteries in? Clearly they picked them up and tried to turn them off. If these were bombs, wouldn't that be a bit foolish of them? If the students did a "triumphant march," then it should have been easy for any teacher of more than two years' experience to spot a senior prank.

Still, school administrators called the cops, who brought in the bomb squad.

When I was a junior in high school, in the spring of 1975, the senior prank that spring was actually a bomb, specifically a very well-engineered fireworks display constructed in a school bookbag and controlled by an alarm clock. It was obviously a bit bigger than an alarm clock by itself.

The lesson to be learned by these incidents is that politicians, school administrators, and law enforcement don't like to be punk'd. When someone gets the better of them, either knowingly or unwittingly, they bring the full wrath of the system down on the miscreants:

But the damage was done. Officials filed felony charges of placing a false bomb against the 19 students identified as being in the school during the break-in. The lead headline in the local paper read: "19 face charges in bomb prank."

Felony charges for a senior prank? We're going to ruin the futures of 19 students because a principal and some cops were made to look the fool? That's extremism of the kind that should make all of us sit up and take notice.

What I don't see here is consequences for the school administrators. If a key to the school building had been missing for over a year, with their knowledge those administrators potentially endangered the lives of everyone entering and exiting those buildings. If the school system is prepared to prosecute the students behind this plot, what about disciplining the administrators who have mis-managed their school?

Revenge for not being able to recognize a prank is no reason to pursue federal prosecutions against high school students.


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