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A six-month-year lamb was found at Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif., on Friday June 1. Twenty-five students were suspended for participating in a senior prank. (Courtesy of Kathi Storer)

The last few days of senior year in high school lend themselves to mischievous celebration.

It's a time for slapping obscene messages on school walls. It's a time for smearing paint stains all across campus. It's a time for stealing school property and tying helpless animals to lampposts.

What, you don't remember doing those things?

Where were you educated, in a convent?

For more than two dozen seniors at Brentwood's Heritage High School, these were the staples of an elaborate "prank" they recently pulled to mark their departure from the institution that allegedly prepared them for the next chapter in their lives.

It was like a minor league pitcher filling the dugout with horse dung before leaving to play in the big leagues.

It's not as if senior pranks are a bold new adventure. They've been around so long even I can remember them. I believe we toilet-papered the campus, waxed a few windows and stole all the chalk out of classrooms. (This was back in education's Paleoblackboard Era.)

What's happened since then is that pranks have become much larger, less sane and more problematic. (Sounds like the government, doesn't it?) Anyone worried about the state of our K-12 educational system need not worry about youngsters' test scores in mischief-making.

This doubtless was on the minds of Heritage Principal Larry Oshodi and his staff when the school's 420 seniors were gathered for an assembly last month, during which they were told no pranks would be tolerated. The message could not have been clearer if it had been tattooed onto their forearms.


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Now, in the aftermath of warnings ignored and damage done, the accused find themselves suspended for a week, denied a place in commencement exercises and begging plaintively for leniency.

Well, not all are begging. Some have gone to court. Several suddenly concerned parents, who weren't concerned enough to prevent their kids' misbehavior, are party to legal action contesting the discipline.

Their argument is that pranks are a senior tradition, that they accidentally got carried away and that the punishment is too severe for the crime. Some fear their children's college scholarships might be jeopardized. (Highly doubtful.) Others think a commencement ceremony is an inalienable right. (Think again.)

Not to go all "cranky old man," but when did parents quit believing in discipline? Did someone spike their no-foam mocha lattes with permissiveness powder? The old-fashioned notion of tough love -- my father held a Ph.D. -- seems to have skipped this generation and careened into outer space.

It's too bad, because the way this episode of High School High Jinx is handled could be as instructive as any lesson these kids have learned.

To wit: When you ignore the rules laid down by those in authority, there will be a price to pay. This applies to driving and drinking, not paying taxes or parking in a disabled space.

Also: If what you're planning seems strangely at odds with common sense, there might be reason rethink that plan.

Math, science and English teachers often argue over which of their respective fields best prepares students for life. I'm not sure there is a right answer.

Getting an "A" in accountability is probably more important than any of them.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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