tampabay.com

Pranksters beware: You'll get caught

By JAMAL THALJI
Published May 26, 2007


ZEPHYRHILLS - The end of the school year means graduation for Pasco County's seniors.

And for Pasco's principals, graduation means senior pranks.

"You just don't know what is going on in their wonderful little minds, " said Zephyrhills High School principal Gerri Painter.

It's that time of the year, the principal said, when seniors ask themselves: "What can we do to leave our mark?"

Doing just that led to the arrests of four students in a three-day span at Zephyrhills High, the epicenter of senior pranks.

This year's tools of choice: plastic forks in once case and a strong adhesive called Gorilla Glue in another.

The school district reported no other pranks this year. The Times is withholding the accused students' identities because of their ages.

The first alleged prank took two months to pull off. That's how long the plastic engraved name plates in teachers' classrooms had been disappearing.

They all reappeared same time, same place: On May 15 at the Bulldog Inn, a cafeteria and patio area for upperclassmen.

There were 68 name plates glued to five picnic tables, four metal poles and elsewhere around the school. The prank was pulled off at night, during adult education classes, when there were fewer witnesses around.

The accused student was arrested Wednesday on a felony charge of criminal mischief. Total damage: $1, 000.

Building the case wasn't hard, according to a police report. There were pictures of the stolen name plates on his cell phone.

Oh, and he confessed.

The student was mad, he told Zephyrhills police, because he had to serve a suspension.

"I don't think that he stopped to think that this isn't a prank any longer, " Painter said. "This is vandalism."

Zephyrhills police also stopped a more innocuous prank: sticking plastic forks, prongs up, in the school's lawn to spell "07." It was after midnight Monday when 11 seniors tried to enter the school with an unknown number of plastic utensils.

Three were arrested: two on misdemeanor trespassing charges, one on a misdemeanor loitering charge.

In order to walk in Friday night's commencement, they agreed to a plea deal: they had to get the school ready for commencement.

"It looks beautiful, " the principal said. "They haven't finished. They're going to be back today to put away all those chairs."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.