“If it’s something that puts somebody at risk or in danger, it’s a fine line,” he said. Unless irreparable harm is done, he said, he looks for consequences apart from graduation ceremonies: community service, for example, or missing a graduation-related party.
Larkin called denying graduation “the nuclear weapon of student discipline.”
In the Washington area, pranks are not uncommon.
River Hill High School in Howard County was spray-painted in May in a senior prank that included toilet-papering trees and moving trash cans into the street. Thirty students were disciplined and tasked with an extensive cleanup before graduation, said spokeswoman Patti Caplan.
They were not excluded from graduation ceremonies. “The principal certainly has the right to deny participation,” she said, but generally school leaders use it as a last resort.
In Herndon, Bob Shoemaker, father of the suspended teen, said he recognizes the danger created by the oil-slick floors and supports punishment. But it seems harsh, he said, to shut down the possibility of attending graduation, after 13 years in school, because of a “13-minute mistake.”
His son said the idea never crossed his mind that he might lose his chance at attending graduation or be suspended.
The teen said he bought baby oil for the prank but then realized the problem when a teacher admonished one of his friends, who was squirting it on the floor.
Shoemaker said he did not spread the oil and walked back to class, where he said he remained only briefly before he was pulled out for questioning.
He said he immediately admitted his involvement.
But Shoemaker said that in his statement to a security officer, he used the word “we,” which he says school officials viewed as an admission that he had actually poured the oil on the floor. A security officer made a note of that impression on Shoemaker’s written statement.
‘Weren’t really thinking’
Ashkan Naderi, 18, who also is set to miss graduation because of the baby oil prank, described the original idea as “a quick, funny, slip-and-slide kind of thing.”
“We weren’t really thinking,” he said. “We were just trying to go out with a senior prank that would be remembered. We definitely didn’t mean for anybody to get hurt.”
On Monday, Naderi said, the principal told his mother that the family should consider collecting the teenager’s cap and gown and taking photos at home.
“All I’m doing,” Naderi said, “is hoping and praying that something
. . . changes their decision.”