Friday, May 19, 2006

The Prank Report: A Different Kind Of Striptease

Today's school prank report is about the Huntsville, Alabama high school seniors who hired a homeless man to.... take off his pants and display his personal assets:
With just days until graduation, a handful of self-styled pranksters from Huntsville High School will be staying home a lot. They will miss class day, awards day, senior picnic and graduation itself.

Plus, the punishment will cover the part of their education that seems to have been missed.

"We're going to hold their diplomas until they do 100 hours of community service connected to the homeless community," said Dr. Ann Roy Moore, superintendent of Huntsville City Schools.

On Thursday, a group of seniors offered a homeless man money to enter Huntsville High School and walk with his pants off through the halls between classes. Moore said security guards removed the man and gave him a meal.

Moore said investigations revealed "four or five" student ringleaders, who enticed the man and helped him gain access to the building. She said more students may be involved and others could be disciplined.

As for those four or five seniors, she said they are suspended five days, but they will be allowed to come to school to take their final exams. They will graduate, but not be permitted to walk across the stage with their class. Moore said they will receive their diplomas this summer after a local homeless agency certifies they have donated 100 hours.

Huntsville High senior Allie Smith, who is a member of the student council, said the media attention has seemed "out of control" to the graduating class.

"It feels like the whole school and the whole class is being criticized, but it wasn't all of us," Smith said. "I don't want the Class of 2006 to be remembered for this, but I'm sure we will."

Smith said she knows the pranksters, and she believes they didn't think through the consequences: "They were trying to come up with something no one else had ever done before."

School board President Doug Martinson Jr. said he heard from parents of some of the pranksters. One parent had canceled the boy's graduation party and requested graduation gifts be sent instead to a charity that helps the homeless. Two other parents had already had their sons volunteer at a homeless shelter over the weekend.

Gail Scott, director of First Stop day center for the homeless, said the mother of one of the pranksters called her Monday to see about making a donation and getting her son to do volunteer work there.

"You could hear the sadness and the pain in her voice, but I don't know that that's how the kids who did this feel," Scott said. "I haven't heard an apology or remorse from them yet."

Even though the homeless man, 53-year-old Jim Shields, is not a client at First Stop, Scott knows him.

Since a motorcycle accident crushed his leg years ago, she's seen him struggle with addiction and other problems, "but he's still human."

She said his story isn't that different from other homeless people victimized in the past year, when high school-age young men were throwing rocks at a man's head or shooting at one with a paintball gun.

When told what the students' punishment was, Scott said it wasn't enough, but she didn't know what it should be.

"I fear what this behavior means for the rest of society," she said.

But Smith said future seniors will learn from the incident.

"I think there's a lesson in here to underclassmen to think twice about their senior prank," she said. "You have to respect other people and their feelings.

"You can't just do whatever and not have to pay a price."
I guess that by not being permitted to walk across the stage and participate in other graduation-related activities, those involved are paying a pretty hefty price for their stunt.

What's not being said is whether or not the homeless man was under the influence of drugs or intoxicating beverages at the time he walked through the campus showing the "full monty."
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