With Rights Come Responsibilities

In Troutman, North Carolina, two seniors pulled a prank at their high school.  They put alarm clocks in unused lockers and had them go off at different times, prompting a bomb search.  This led to both seniors being arrested and charged.  The alarm clocks going off prompted an immediate response which was necessary to ensure the safety and security of all students and staff.

In Wentzville, Illinois, three students uprooted three thirty-five year old trees from planters and damaged the trees’ root structures so badly that they had to be destroyed.  This led to charges being laid against all three students.

In Morganza, Maryland, five people wearing masks and hoodies forced open a door at a local high school and released 72,000 lady bugs throughout the school.  This led to four juveniles and three adults being arrested and charged.

In Teaneck, New Jersey, sixty-three students vandalized their high school as a senior prank.  This led to twenty-four students over the age of 18 and thirty-nine students under the age of 18 being charged by the police.

In Madisonville, Tennessee, a hundred seniors saw their graduation ceremony cancelled when they ransacked their high school, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the school.  This led to a lot of consequences for the senior class, the firing of a sheriff’s deputy, and the suspension of the school principal.

Why do some people feel that senior pranks that are criminal are a rite of passage for high school seniors?

A rite of passage is supposed to marks the transition from one phase of life to another. When the rite of passage is one that involves criminal activities, what does this say about those who are involved in — and who condone, if not outright encourage — such rites?

It’s important to acknowledge milestones as they are reached.  It’s why we celebrate a baby’s birth with a baby shower and we celebrate every birthday that falls after that.  It’s why there’s so much attention paid to a child’s 13th and 16th birthdays, and when a young adult reaches his or her 21st birthday.  We celebrate engagements by throwing engagement parties, and we celebrate marriages by having weddings and anniversary parties.

But you’d be hard pressed to find milestone celebrations where those being honored for reaching that milestone are willing to desecrate that milestone achievement with behaviors that are criminal in nature.

While it’s true that there’s no one way to celebrate milestones, and while it’s true that each person should celebrate milestones in a way that feels comfortable to each person, that doesn’t translate into a free pass to mar other people’s celebration of a mutually shared milestone.

Everyone who is part of a mutually shared milestone has their own emotions and memories tied to their involvement in reaching that goal.  No one has the right to move ahead with their celebration at the cost of other people’s rights to move ahead with their own celebrations.  And when it’s a joint celebration, no one person — or group of people — has the right to derail the overall celebration in a way that they know, or should know, can result in criminal charges being laid against participants.

As young adults transition from high school into the next phase of their lives, hopefully they have learned the lessons that will serve them well in their adult lives.  If not, then bad choices such as the ones made in Troutman and Morganza and Teaneck and Madisonville will leave their indelible marks on those who chose to take part in — or encourage — unlawful celebrations of their high school graduation.

Elyse Bruce


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