IPS bans group of Crispus Attucks seniors from graduation ceremony after prank

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As the hundred or so Crispus Attucks High School seniors got ready to go through graduation, they had an unexpected cheering section across the street: their classmates.

Indianapolis Public Schools banned a group of Crispus Attucks seniors from walking in their high school graduation after a senior prank went wrong.

But many students say the punishment was unfair.

It’s not a day these graduates or parents imagined. It’s a day many looked forward to for a long time, but a senior prank derailed that, and now more than 20 students have been barred from walking for their graduation — including the valedictorian and the student body vice president.

“I’m very happy for them. We’ve all earned our diplomas. We’ve all earned our spot on the stage. We were there; they weren’t,” said Kayla Hawthorne, the class valedictorian.

A couple dozen were not allowed to be on school property or walk across the stage with them. That’s why they stood in cap and gown across the street.

The punishment follows a senior prank on Tuesday that caused damage to the school, a national historical landmark.

IPS wouldn’t say how much damage was done, but the students 24-Hour News 8 talked to said they believe they didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, they say the prank was approved by the school.

“I said, ‘Okay are there rules and guidelines to what we can and can’t do?’” said Zac Owens, the student body vice president, recalling a conversation with a school official. “She said ‘Yes. Just don’t harm anything or anyone,’ and we said, ‘That’s fine.’ We gave her a list. She approved everything on the list.”

What was the plan? “Ballons and paper come on now,” Owens said.

Some of the students said they left the school after that. But the reality is — some people took it too far. The students said they heard some desks were vandalized, and a fire extinguisher used.

The students were punished, and their parents face consequences.

“It does hurt that we are all being punished for something a few people did,” said Hawthorne.

“That’s my only child. I’ve waited 19 years for this day,” said Theresa Torrence, whose daughter was not allowed to walk across the stage.

Some families traveled great distances to see them graduate. “My grandfather is handicapped. He flew down here from West Virginia just to see me walk,” said Owens, getting choked up. “Just to know he can’t see me walk hits me deep.”

So New Baptist Church across the street opened its doors to give these graduates their moment: a speech from the valedictorian, their names called, pictures and, of course, throwing their caps.

Still, parents say the past few days serve as a final lesson for all these students before they head off to college.

All the students will still get their diplomas. Several of the students told us they’re happy to pay for any damages they may have caused.

Here is the full statement from IPS:

Indianapolis Public Schools is aware that on Tuesday, June 6, a group of Crispus Attucks students and multiple adults vandalized various areas of the school building, a local and national historical landmark, in an effort to carry out a ‘senior prank.’ The matter is under investigation by IPS police. Students involved in this incident will not be allowed to participate in today’s graduation ceremony and are required to participate in a campus beautification effort as restitution for the damage caused. IPS will not tolerate criminal activity of any kind, in the name of senior pranks or otherwise. Anyone found guilty of committing such acts will face harsh penalties.”

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