...I really need to read the newspaper more because I often get some good blog fodder out of it. Yesterday morning when I was home before heading to an all day training session I had the opportunity to catch up on some local events and a columnist's rant caught my eye.
She was talking about how a kid, Daniel Marchant, in high school is being charged with a felony for a high school prank. He and some friends took an old car and planted it upside down on a wooden deck, with the tires in the trees. Once the car was tied to this particular kid, he came forward and admitted it thinking that he'd probably get slapped for it.
Well, the school administration is claiming that this charity working, 3.8 GPA varsity baseball player caused $3000 worth of damage to the lawns and the deck and made sure that he spent some time in jail and is being charged with felony vandalism. The theory is that the threat of charging him would get him to roll over on his friends, but he didn't rat them out, nor have they come forward. The school is letting him walk with his class for graduation, but initially they were not going to allow that.
Now, I'm of two minds on this. No one got hurt, so it's not that big of a deal. On the other hand property was allegedly damaged. I'd make the kid pay restitution for it (these are kids at Palo Alto High... there's money in them there hills), but I doubt I'd go for an arrest record on him. Daniel's future is clearly clouded now by this.
I played pranks when I was in high school, and I didn't get caught. Sometimes I managed to redirect who got blamed for them when I knew it wasn't going to cost much (detention, but never suspension). I've had cans of spray paint in my possession, instant jello (for the intent of ruining a lab experiment in chemistry and blaming the psycho ex), and various other accouterments of pranksterism. I did once consider the disassembly and reassembly of a car in a classroom but I couldn't find enough mechanically minded individuals who could help me. And finding the right car to use was also an impediment to success.
See, that's the other part of it - this kid had help, and as far as I know his friends haven't come forward (and he hasn't ratted them out either). That's not right - the buddies are cowards for letting this kid go down by himself. Of course they're probably more interested in saving their own rear ends considering their buddy has been charged with a felony, which I think is the high school going too far.
The community is divided as well. There are some who wrote into the newspaper to state that it was a prank, and there's a long history of senior pranks happening across the country. For some it's a tradition, and maybe that's what Daniel was trying to start or continue. Others state that they should throw the book at the kid; some think that an arrest was too much but paying for the damage wouldn't be. Others talked about how their kids never recovered from being arrested for a similar senior prank. I never got caught for mine, but if I had I know I would have gone from golden child with straight A's who could do no wrong to instantly being suspected of being on drugs and a total screwup - there was no middle ground with my parents.
Does Daniel have regrets? According to a quote in the San Jose Mercury News, yes he does. He's says he's now considered a felon. Well, that's not quite true - he hasn't been convicted yet and this mess could still straighten itself out, but I'm not counting on it. He's being made an example of for what is essentially a (mostly) harmless prank.
As a fellow prankster, I feel bad for him. He could be kept from the job of his dreams if this doesn't get wiped off his record, and considering that he's 18, it's going to stay there. If there's a felony conviction, his choices get even more limited. I still think it was a harmless prank and he should just have to work to pay off the damage instead of being under arrest for it. No one got hurt...
...except, potentially, himself.