So this is where I got in trouble last year. I wrote about the "senior pranks" and people went after me, my family, even people I just knew. It was, as I call it, a cyber-crucifixion. Any smart, prudent person would leave it alone and never talk about it again.
So let’s talk about it. I will not appeal to the students to stop doing pranks, since they won’t, or to the administration to make it stop, because they can’t. Instead I will offer two cautionary tales of how pranks can affect you in unintended ways. This is for the parents mostly.
The first example needs historical perspective. The nation’s tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals is a new phenomenon. It was not always that way. Having been involved with theatre types since I was very young, I was more accepting then many of my peers in high school. But it was very common for people suspected of being gay to suffer verbal abuse or worse.
It would not be uncommon in the 1960s or 1970s for a group of popular jocks or wealthy prep school elite to physically abuse a kid who was different. It is hard to believe today, but back then this was almost acceptable certainly, not a crime. If you are of my generation you remember those kids who did those sorts of things. They were popular, it was fun, and it was just a prank.
So when the news reported that Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, was accused of being part of a group that grabbed a kid with long blond hair (a big social no-no in the 1960s), forced him to the ground and cut his hair off, I am sure they all thought at the time it was a harmless prank. And the mores at the time would bear me out. This was not viewed as unacceptable then as it is today.
When questioned, Mitt Romney said he could not remember the incident, but there were many things that he did as a youth that he regrets. A non-denial denial if I ever heard one. Imagine having done that and not even remembering it, but yet admitting it was possible that he did it. He spent a week of his presidential
campaign not talking about how he would fix the country but answering questions
about that incident. And I am sure it or other incidents will come up again.
There is nothing like a campaign to dredge that stuff up.
I suspect the prank seemed like a good idea at the time and that this is not what he wanted from that prank. Just something to think about if any Barrington student has dreams of running for president. In 40 years what is acceptable can change. And trust me there are a lot of kids who would sell you out to a newspaper for $50.
Then I come to the case of Dharun Ravi, the 20-year-old Rutgers University student who thought it might be a fun prank to have a web cam catch his roommate kissing another man. He invited others to watch. This was his idea of a fun prank.
Well his roommate was so distraught that he killed himself. What did Ravi’s prank cost him? Well, he is no longer going to Rutgers University. He was convicted of Bias Intimidation. Today he is going to start spending 30 days in jail. The prosecutor has asked for 10 years and is appealing the sentence to a higher court, and he may get more time in jail. When he gets out he has to do 300 hours of
community service, plus multiple $10,000 fines. Then I am sure his lawyers were
not free. The one thing I am sure of is that not many top-tier colleges will want to take him in their dorms after this.
I am sure his prank seemed like a good idea at the time.
To parents, if your kids are doing pranks on senior prank day and that is what you want them to do, fine. But if your children are underclassmen and they are not doing pranks, my advice is that you should let them stay home for the day. Because if they are not doing a prank the odds are that they will have a prank done on them.
But one thing I can assure you of, with all the pranks going on, there is very little education going on at Barrington High School on senior prank day. Just let your children stay home.