• Comment

Laughs shouldn't come at taxpayers' expense

Posted: May 15, 2012 - 11:02pm

Let’s start with a couple of definitions: A “prank” generally is a harmless practical joke. “Vandalism” causes physical damage.

What happened last week at Greenbrier High School was not a “senior prank,” even though it was committed by four of the school’s seniors. It was vandalism, pure and simple.

The price tag for that vandalism, which destroyed 43 locks on the school’s exterior doors when the teens squirted powerful glue into them: More than $5,100.

That’s no “prank.” That’s no joke. It’s called criminal damage to property in the second degree – a felony, which is how the less-than-fantastic four were charged.

Isn’t respect for others’ property supposed to be one of the fundamental lessons children are taught? Don’t they learn not to swipe crayons, and to not cheat off of other’s papers? Surely they don’t have to be told, specifically, “Don’t damage things that don’t belong to you”?

Or do they?

For anyone inclined to go soft with a boys-will-be-boys dismissal of these girls’ shenanigans, it’s important to remember that there is a perfect precedent.

It took place a year or two before these teens were born, and several years before Greenbrier High school was even built. But back in 1993, a similar group of students (all boys, in that case) decided it would be cute a week before graduation to vandalize Lakeside High School – including filling locks with glue.

Two vandals were caught red-handed by alert Columbia County deputies, who soon rounded up all eight participants. Six were Lakeside seniors. Passing off the activity as a mere “senior prank” didn’t work then, either; all were charged with second-degree criminal damage to property.

What’s more, the seniors weren’t allowed to march with their classmates during graduation. They weren’t allowed to pick up their diplomas until they repaid the expense of repairs and cleanup.

That seems like a perfectly fair response, and that’s exactly how the school system is handling these girls’ vandalism. Under no circumstances should taxpayers have to fork over a dime to pay for such juvenile behavior.

All four of the teens involved in this stunt seem like perfectly upstanding young ladies. A couple of them have had their names printed before in this newspaper for academic honors, or after having been voted by classmates to represent Greenbrier’s homecoming court. Yet how in the world did they manage to get to this stage in life without learning to respect other people’s property?

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Comments (38)

Barry Paschal

"Piling on"

What we're talking about here are the difference (and intersection between) school policy violations and criminal violations.

The school system punishes school policy violations without regard to what law enforcement might also do, and law enforcement takes on the case based on a complaint filed by the school system and treats them exactly the same as any other complainant. If someone maliciously causes $5,000 damage to one of our homes, for example, we could file charges and then decide not to pursue them for whatever reason. The sheriff's office gives the same prosecutorial leeway to the school system as they do a private victim; the difference is that the school system also considers all taxpayers as the victim, and typically will allow the sheriff's office and DA to proceed with full prosecution. (To do otherwise makes it look like they're showing favoritism, and you can all bet if that happened in this case that we'd be inundated with complaining commenters in that regard.)

The school system enforces its policies the same way an employer would. If you commit a felony, many (most) companies will also apply a sanction under their company policies by firing you. If you're a deputy and get a DUI, you'll go to court like everyone else - except you'll go without a job, because sheriff's office policy means you'll be fired. Is that "piling on," too? Of course not. Likewise, the school system has to enforce its policies and stay out of the way as the criminal laws are enforced. (See also: Charlie Rape Gang.)

By the way: Exam exemptions are for high-achieving students who behave themselves. These girls made the foolish mistake of committing a major policy violation the week before final exams, so the inconvenient timing of their exam exemption loss (we're assuming any of them actually HAD exemptions; we don't actually know, do we?) was entirely their fault. Besides: They had all day Saturday and Sunday, and possibly longer depending on the exam schedules, to study.

Quit coddling, for crying out loud.



I think most of them had exemptions or the school wouldn't have said anything about them having to take exams. It is patently unfair to make them take exams without preparation. By the way, on the thread about saving the county schools money, my suggestion of doing away with middle school sports actually was first voiced by Nagle, so don't be too hard on the idea. (Nice talking with you at Lowes, Barry) (LL, thanks for the card.)


So Basically the School System Can Choose What to Prosecute

We had the misdemeanor case in 1998 in which a crime was most certainly committed, but was not prosecuted because the school didn't press charges. In Macon we had over $10,000 in vandalism with the locks that the school system didn't choose to prosecute. Let's just make it clear what's going on. Nagle says the kids can negotiate pleas with the Sheriff/DA when he is clearly the one calling the shots. So regardless of the law, it is up to the school administrators to determine the dollar impact of the crime and whether the DA should prosecute and at what level of prosecution.

Saying it's the same as with private people whether arrests should be made is the equivalent of saying unless the highway department presses charges for a murder committed on the highways for vehicular homicide nothing will be done.

Nagle positively injected himself into the legal process with his comments of how the charges could be handled.


Two Days to Study for Exams is Not Enough

Barry, are you seriously defending the school making them take senior exams without a normal period of time to study for the multiple exams?

I don't really think two days to study for multiple exams is adequate. I think by you mentioning the time frame you have a question if it were too with the "coddling" comment you made. Let's review the purpose of exams. They are never intended to punish. This clearly was such an undertaking.

Now I'm also a realist, I passed an exam with three days of study one time without ever attending class in college, but those were the good old days. If this is a fair academic exercise as represented by the school the exams without adequate time for study were positively wrong. Something is wrong here and we're not coddling them.

Barry Paschal

Let's roll through these, shall we?

1. They did the crime. The timing (for them) certainly is not good. That's on them. Quit coddling.
2. Your highway department reference is not even a serious attempt at analogy. And the total damages in the 1998 case did not add up to a felony level. Next.
3. Students are required to take final exams. Students with good enough grades and good behavior are rewarded with exemptions. Those without good enough grades or good enough behavior are not rewarded with exemptions. Not giving someone a reward they did not earn is not punishment, unless you're a proponent of Everyone Gets A Trophy Day.

Good seeing you, too.


My Point of View

Okay, why wasn't the misdemeanor 1998 crime charged, prosecuted, fined or whatever? It's obvious Nagle has the power to say what's a crime and what isn't. In Macon that option was exercised without the amount of the damage having influence. Just keep in mind for the future we are now supposing Nagle has to go along with the law even though he hinted at plea bargains for this incident which would surely involve him.

I think you expressed well the school's right to make them take exams, but it's not the norm in education to make anyone take an exam without at least a couple of weeks of study. Say a student does something wrong a few hours before exams are given should he be required to then take the exam without adequate preparation time? I don't think so. It goes against every theory of education I've heard of.


Lets forget the &*&** locks

Everyone seems so hyped up on the cost of these locks, but lets think another way. I don't know if anyone was inside the building, or buildings, when this was done, but there is a little thing called the Georgia Fire Code. Part of that code states that all exterior, or fire exit, doors are to be left so that they can be opened with one motion such as pushing on a single bar or turning a doorknob. If the locks were glued shut and made inaccessible from the interior, then I am surprised heavier charges weren't applied. Second point: even if this was not the case, it has left the school accessible to criminals until the locks are replaced; a breach of security. That could mean that every record, your child's record, is now left open to theft which could lead to something more serious. This is not just a high school prank, and these students need to learn the hard way that every action you take has consequences.


Little Lamb

Five-letter Expletive

I'm not sure what kind of locks you think we should be forgetting about, Denny, but it looks like you did not read articles in the newspaper describing the crime. Everything I read said the super glue was squirted into the locks from the outside of the buildings. The crash handles presumably would continue to work as designed even though the tumblers were rendered non-functional. Fire safety should not be an issue here.