Relatively minor Hell Week ends in major prank

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By Arlene Freudenberg 2009 (with Katie Dexter Cartoon)

Though the annual homecoming ritual of vandalism and pranks known as Hell Week started off quietly, all that changed on Friday morning.

Ten minutes before school started, a student dressed in black and wearing a black mask used a fire extinguisher in English hallway. After filling the air and spraying students with the extinguisher, the student eluded several attempts at capture and ran out the door to the north parking lot. He was later caught and suspended from school.

“We had four really good days, but we had one really bad stain on Friday. Unfortunately, that sticks out because it disrupts school and it just keeps reminding students that they think they have to do something negative in order to have a complete homecoming week, and that’s not true,” school counselor Ryan Flaherty said.

No one was seriously injured by the stunt.

“I had a number of students in here that I saw with exposure contact to the fire extinguisher contents. After reviewing the MSDS sheets on that material there are no particular first aid precautions that are necessary for skin or eye contact. We just simply had the students wash their face and eyes off and were returned to class. We did have two students who complained about some breathing difficulties related to the exposure. Both of them had a history of asthma. Both were seen and evaluated in my office and returned to class,” school nurse Sue Gettman said.

The incident kept students from the first half of their first periods and led to extensive clean up.

“We had to clean out all the smoke detectors in the hallways. We had to scrub the floors. We had to wipe down the walls and clean up all the chemicals from the smoke detector off the floor, so it made for a lot of extra work. Luckily we had a lot of extra staff here because it’s homecoming,” custodian Mark Wray said.

Other smaller incidents also occurred during the week. On Tuesday before fourth period, a water balloon fight broke out in the math hallway, and another water balloon attack occurred during marching band practice fourth period on Friday. Students also dropped piles of glitter around the building and were allegedly planning a mass silly string display during Friday afternoon’s pep rally. The rally was canceled due rumors of other pranks.

“We had all of our administration pretty involved in student issues that day, and we were not able to complete those in time for the assembl. With such a big event, I didn’t feel comfortable having it without us being there,” Principal Dr. Rich Powers said.

As students buzzed about the pranks, the administration debated consequences.

“Events like this put homecoming in jeopardy in the future, very significantly. In part it’s too bad, but in another part I guess if that’s the only lesson that gets learned I guess it’s just a hard lesson to learn,” Flaherty said.

Powers also commented on the possible consequences of Hell Week pranks.

“If we can’t make it safe, we don’t have any business having it. Our main objective for our school is not homecoming; that’s part of student life. We want to have it and promote it just like we would with prom or any school dance. But if at some point it becomes a risk or financial burden, we have to look at other opportunities,” Powers said.

Although this year’s pranks sparked some conflict, most of the faculty seemed pleased with the relatively mild homecoming week.

“I guess in comparison to some other years, up until (Friday) it’s been a relatively quiet week, but obviously a situation like this is certainly not planned on, and there needs to be consequences. It’s affecting a lot of people’s time and energy and impacting the students’ educational day,” Gettman said.

Flaherty also mentioned the improvement from past years, but reiterated that the pranks that occurred were disappointing.

“I was pretty pleased with how things were going. That we were trying to stay focused on school sponsored events (and) the positive aspects of homecoming. I’m always disappointed when pranks have to happen. When we have to try to miss school or deface school property for it to be a complete homecoming. It’s been better than in years past, but it’s still very disappointing when these things happen,” Flaherty said.

Although pranks did occur this year, there is hope that future homecoming weeks will continue to improve.

“I think we’re making progress on things being a little calmer for the school. I think we need to get to a point where there are no major disruptions, or we need to look at a different way to celebrate our fall,” Powers said.

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