Sunday, October 08, 2006

Running Afowl Of School Rules

Some North Carolina high school seniors got an early start on the Pranking Season by ruffling some feathers around campus:
Sophomore Anne Marie Boothe can see the headlines now.

"It's like, chickens create panic at local school."

Sure, it's common -- expected even -- for high schoolers to pull a senior prank. But the tradition normally reserved for the end of the year came early at Lord Botetourt High School.

And it came with beaks and feathers.

It was the end of homecoming week Friday, the day of the football matchup against Blacksburg, the day before the big dance. It was 8:45 a.m. -- 20 minutes before classes began -- when three seniors walked in a side door by the cafeteria carrying boxes. An entrance, assistant principal Tim Bane said, people might use if they wanted to be inconspicuous.

Shortly thereafter, this senior prank began ruffling feathers.

The boxes held chickens -- live ones, not nuggets. As the birds would soon learn, high school can be scary.

The eight chickens were ushered into the lobby, a gathering place for students before school.

That's when the rumors and later, the lockdown and possible criminal charges, began flying.

There were reports of students kicking the chickens, which Bane said were unconfirmed. By the time he returned to Lord Botetourt at 9:20 a.m. from an off-campus appointment, animal control was on its way.

"Chickens in a school of 1,060 doesn't make sense," Bane said. "On the surface ... that's a funny prank. In my mind, it was a funny prank that got out of control."

Kindly students and staff corralled the chickens -- egg-laying hens, actually -- into a room, where two girls sat with them as the chickens huddled scared. One bird had a leg injury and was unable to stand. But the others were unharmed, aside from the trauma.

Lockdown ensued for about an hour. Everyone was confined to classrooms, no one allowed in or out.

Sophomore Eric Wice deemed the process a little much.

"It's not like it was terrorists," he said. "It was chickens."

Lockdown ended after animal control arrived. But first, to catch the culprits, Bane did what any school administrator might do when it comes to teens -- he offered students cash, and threatened to take away stuff.

By third period, 10:45 a.m., everything was back to normal. The chickens were carried into animal control trucks and Bane's threat to cancel the homecoming pep rally and powder puff football game was unrealized. Several students even turned in the seniors who brought the chickens, possibly enticed by Bane's offer of a reward.

But this prank comes with punishment -- possible criminal charges from the Botetourt County Sheriff's Office for cruelty to animals and disruption of school. The school also dealt out discipline. Bane would not say what exactly, but those involved are banned from tonight's homecoming dance and may not be allowed to walk at graduation.

The campus was clucking about chickens the rest of the day. There were rumors a chicken died and that one was on the roof. But it warmed Bane's heart a bit every time a student asked, "How are the chickens?"

"The concept of bringing chickens was funny," Anne Marie, 15, said. "But what happened to them was terrible."

And just when Bane thought the bad day was coming to an end, students spotted a stray chicken outside school as they loaded buses.

The wayward bird was ushered into a boiler room. Animal control was called once again.

But save for the chicken with an injured leg, which may be euthanized, this story may have a happy ending.

Bane's secretary knows a family with a farm in Botetourt County. Should the family agree to take the chickens, which belonged to one of the seniors who pulled the prank, they may be able to adopt them from their current home at Roanoke's SPCA.
It would be interesting to see how many of those birds end-up being adopted by the Fryer family.
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