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PHS pranksters assigned community service; vandals yet to be charged

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The 15-20 students involved in an end-of-school-year prank at Perham High School have each been assigned 16 hours of community service, according to Superintendent Mitch Anderson.

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A lengthy investigation by police and school officials determined that the group of recent graduates was responsible for some minimal damage caused during a senior prank on May 29 – smearing Vaseline on door handles, squirting ketchup around, and rolling toilet paper down hallways, for instance.

Reportedly unbeknownst to the first group, two to three other people, who Anderson said “we could not ID as Perham students,” caused more serious damage, throwing a brick through two windows on Door 4 and spray painting graffiti on some exterior walls. That damage will cost an estimated $800-1,000 to repair, Perham Police Chief Jason Hoaby has said.

If the damage totals more than $1,000, the vandals could be charged with a felony.

“We had a couple individuals who crashed the party with different intentions in mind,” said Anderson.

Those two incidents, combined with another incident of vandalism to a Detroit Lakes city sign, makes it “pretty easy to rap one group, but really it’s three separate incidents,” according to Anderson. The Detroit Lakes sign was spray painted with graffiti, which included a reference to Perham High School.

The difference between the two sets of vandalism “doesn’t add up,” Anderson said. “People want to see the book thrown at every kid that was involved, (but as administrators) we want to separate the kids from the different vandalism. We really feel that there were different levels of involvement and intent.”

He went on to add: “Some of them had scholarships on the line, and, in the end, did we really feel that smearing Vaseline on a doorknob and rolling toilet paper would warrant having a criminal charge on their record for life?”

Separately, both Hoaby and Anderson pointed out that senior pranks have happened regularly in Perham’s history and have gone largely unpunished.

“This has been a precedent-setting year,” Anderson said.

In the future, the district will adopt a “zero tolerance mode” with regard to senior pranks and, if students are caught in the building after hours, “it’ll be up to police to decide” the best course of action.

The policy will “put an end to senior pranks right then and there,” Hoaby said.

Currently, seniors graduate a week before the school year ends, which is when most pranks have occurred in the past, Anderson said. School administrators are considering holding on to graduates’ signed diplomas until the school year is complete in an effort to thwart future incidents.

Anderson added, “We graduated 117 kids, and we’ve got 15-20 that were involved with this. I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a small group in comparison to the number of graduates.”

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jbowe
Joe Bowen, a 2009 graduate of St. John's University, is the newest member of the Perham Focus team. He enjoys writing, rugby, and hamburgers.
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